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Metadata: Data about your Data: Home

Guide of various metadata related resources.

FAIR Data Principles

FINDABLE: Metadata and data should be easy to find for both humans and computers.

ACCESSIBLE: Once the user finds the required data, s/he needs to know how can they be accessed.

INTEROPERABLE: Data usually need to be integrated with other data. And data need to interoperate with applications or workflows for analysis, storage, and processing.

REUSABLE: Metadata and data should be well-described so they can be replicated and/or combined in different settings.

Metadata Overview

What is Metadata?

Metadata is structured information that describes, explains, locates, or otherwise makes it easier to retrieve, use, or manage an information resource. Metadata is often called data about data or information about information.

This definition comes from the National Institute Standards Organization (NISO) publication Understanding Metadata

Metadata in Plain Language - USGS gives a good overview for creating metadata


Minimal metadata to keep with the data:

  • About the project:
    • Title, people, key dates, funders and grants
  • About the data:
    • Title, key dates, creator(s), subjects, rights included files, format(s), versions, checksums
    • Interpretive aids: codebooks, data dictionaries, algorighms, code




"The great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from." -author unknown

Dublin Core - Defines fifteen basic metadata elements for resource discovery in a cross-disciplinary information environment, designed for interoperability. Learn more at about the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative

Disciplinary Metadata - from the Digital Curation Centre in the UK

Arts -

  • Categories for the Description of Works of Art (CDWA)
  • Visual Resources Association (VRA)

Biological data - Darwin Core - examples

Ecological data - Ecological Metadata Language (EML)

Geospatial data  - FGDC - Federal Geographic Data Committee

Humanities, Social Sciences and Linguistics - Text Encoding Inititiative (TEI)

Scientific data - Directory Interchange Format (DIF)

Social Sciences and Archiving -

  • Data Documentation Initiative (DDI)
  • Encoded Archival Description (EAD)

Creating a Data Dictionary

What's in a Data Dictionary and more from USGS

Creating a Data Dictionary with template from USDA Ag Data Commons

Learning Data Analytics - LinkedIn Learning course includes Creating a Data Dictionary 

Metadata Editors

Good list of metadata editors and tools from DataONE - includes editors for Geospatial and Ecological data as well as editors for more generic data.

Additional Metadata editors:

Geospatial Data -

Ecological data - Morpho - Knowledge Network for Biocomplexity

Bioldiversity dataDarwin Archive Spreadsheet Processor from Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) generates EML from a spreadsheet template

Scientific data - Directory Interchange Format (DIF)

Social Science and Archiving -

  • DDI Tools - List of Freeware and Commercial tools for working with DDI docs from Data Documentation Initiative (DDI)
  • EAD Toolkit - A variety of EAD related tools from the California Digital Library

Humanities, Social Sciences and Linguistics - TEI Tools from Text Encoding Inititiative (TEI)

Arts -

Metadata cleanup


Metadata Crosswalks

You may need to use a crosswalk to convert your metadata to a different standard. Examples include:

FGDC to a variety of schemas - from NOAA

CDWA to VRA 4.0 to MODS to EAD - from The Getty

Subject Guide

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Emily Lin
Director, Strategic Initiatives, Archives & Special Collections
UC Merced Library

A Visualization of the Metadata Universe