What is metadata? Metadata is the information, or documentation, about the data that makes it usable. Minimal metadata should include title, owner, geographic coverage, taxonomies, dates, units of measurement, and methodology of collection. Metadata is very specific and essential to being able to find and re-use data. Many repositories subscribe to specific metadata schema. Click on the image below to explore the complexity and variability of metadata standards. If you are unsure of how to document your data, contact Amanda Rinehart ( 

Riley, Jenn. (2010). Seeing standards: a visualization of the Metadata Universe. Indiana University Libraries, Retrieved from

Metadata standards specific to research areas. 

Research area Metadata standard
 Scientific data - general  Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI) Science and Metadata Community
 Astronomy images, artwork, and illustrations   Astronomy Visualization Metadata Standard  
 Biological diversity data  Darwin Core
 Biodiversity Information Standards   Access to Biological Collection Data (previously, the Taxonomic Database Working Group) 
 Climate and Forecasting  NETCDF Climate and Forecast (CF) Metadata Convention 
 Digital still images  NISO Metadata for Images ion XML 
 Ecology  Ecological Metadata Language (EML) 
 Education of earth sciences (lesson plans, modules, activities, visualizations)   ADN framework  
 Earth science    Directory Interchange Format (DIF)
 Geographic data  ISO 19115:2003 Geographic Information - Metadata
 Geospatial (Oceanography, geology, biology)   Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata (CSDGM) 
 Preservation of data  Preservation Metadata: Implementation Strategies (PREMIS)