Metadata Schemas and Standards

Metadata schemas outline a common understanding of what data are composed of (that is, its elements or attributes) for the purpose of describing data. Once a scheme has been formally implemented or adopted by a standards organization (such as the International Organization for Standardization), it becomes a metadata standard. With the notable exceptions of generalized standards like Dublin Core or, metadata standards tend to apply to a certain domain or specialized subject area: for instance, the DDI or Data Documentation Initiative standard is mainly used to describe social science data, Geospatial Metadata (ISO 19115) is used to describe geographic information and associated services, and Simple Darwin Core is used to detail biodiversity through noting the geographical occurrences of species.

A metadata schema's documentation will detail which elements are mandatory or optional, which elements are repeatable, cardinality rules, as well as guidance on how to input and format values. Many schemas also employ vocabularies or ontologies, which are terms that research communities agree upon that ensure the metadata communicates the same names for things and concepts. Choosing the proper standard, then, is a decision that takes into account the level of description detail desired, the researcher community's common practices, and the target audience for your data. Specific metadata schemas and standards can be quite complex and may require consultation with a metadata professional.

For more information on the metadata schema specific to the UC San Diego Library's DAMS (Digital Asset Management System), see the section Metadata in the UC San Diego Digital Collections

The UC San Diego Library’s Research Data Curation Program (RDCP) and Metadata Services offers metadata consultation and services for researchers. We can help you understand metadata standards and options to better sync your data with other practitioners of your discipline as well as assist in metadata creation. We can also help review your metadata to ensure its usability and quality.

Contact the Research Data Curation Program with questions about our services or to provide feedback on our new website.

Describe your data