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Introduction to Metadata at NCEI

What is Metadata?

Good metadata describes the data content, format, source, accuracy, quality, provenance, frequency, periodicity, resolution, responsible parties, data citation, licensing information, data relationships, and other contextual information by answering the following questions:

Questions Answered by Good Metadata
Question Examples
  • Who collected and processed the data? 
  • Who wrote the metadata?
  • Who are the primary points of contact
  • What are the data about?
  • What project were they collected under?
  • What are the constraints on their use?
  • What format are the data in?
  • What is the quality?
  • What are appropriate uses?
  • What parameters were measured?
  • Why were the data collected?
  • What is the purpose or goal of collecting this data?
  • Where were the data collected and processed?
  • Where are the data located?
  • When were the data collected?
  • When were the data processed?
  • How were the data collected and processed?
  • How do I access or the data?
  • How do I order the data?
  • How much do the data cost?
  • How was the quality of the data assessed?

Data Stewardship Use Cases

Metadata also improve data stewardship in several important ways:

  • Search and Analysis: Metadata make it easier to search for data, making documentation, transformation, and reporting easier.
  • Data Governance: Following metadata standards makes good data governance possible by facilitating consistent schemas and allowing metadata to be interoperable and machine readable.
  • Integration: Complete adoption of standardized metadata amongst users, software engineers, and data stewards improves data management globally by making interoperability more easily attainable.
  • Project Management: Metadata provide a medium to document and record progress. 
  • Data Management: Good metadata preserve data development iterations to monitor status, assessments, and needed changes. 
  • Greater Security: Metadata also help to enforce regulations and protect data. 

Why Submit Quality Metadata?

Good metadata makes data submissions easier for NCEI to manage, which makes the data easier for users to discover and work with. Metadata templates give providers a standardized way to document essential context and history (characteristics of quality metadata), which allows NCEI to properly categorize the data and effectively promote it with users via data access portals, websites, and other distribution methods. 

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