What is metadata?
Metadata, or in this case Geospatial Metadata, serves to describe practical information about a particular
dataset or spatially referenced database such as an Access database. Metadata on PASDA conforms to
the Federal Geospatial Data Committee's (FGDC) Content Standard for Geospatial Metadata. Metadata,
or data documentation, is important to data sharing and data management. This on-line tutorial
will illustrate the steps to create metadata using the ESRI ArcCatalog tool. PASDA will also provide
on site metadata training. Interested organizations should contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
PASDA Online Metadata Tutorial
Frequently asked questions about metadata implementation:
- Why should we bother to maintain metadata?
The creation of standard metadata is a seemingly daunting task but in reality, it is as simple as
balancing your checkbook each month and just as necessary.Here are some more questions that might
make the answer to this question more apparent.
- Do you spend time on the phone answering questions from colleagues about data that you have provided
for a project they are working on?
- Are there columns in the attribute tables on your hard drive that nobody in the organization understands?
- Have you ever spent the time, money and effort to undertake a data project only to find that someone
else already has suitable data?
- How much effort would it take to make your data compatible with the next county/municipality/project?
The answers to all of these questions can be found in the metadata. Adequate CSDGM metadata
provides a data layer with a full title and description and identifies the steward of that data,
it makes readily apparent the content, quality, sources and collection methods, a data dictionary
and other information required for using and archiving data.
- How much will keeping FGDC metadata cost me?
Metadata costs nothing but a little time and effort. The files are small and do not require any significant
amount of storage. Not having metadata for your data is, however, costly. It costs you and your
organization wasted time and money.
- The metadata standard is really long. Do I have to learn the whole thing to create metadata?
Luckily there are many easy to use tools, including the PASDA's metadata tutorials and other free
utilities. For those already using commercial products such as ESRI, there is now ArcCatalog. For
more information, see our tutorial on creating metadata in ArcCatalog.
- What data sets should be documented and which ones should not?
Most importantly you would want to document any data that your organization has that needs to be
maintained, stored, or updated over time. In addition, you you're want to begin the documentation
of new data at the start of any project. In addition, you would want to create metadata for any
data that you commonly share with other organizations.
- How often should metadata be updated?
At PASDA, we check with our data providers on an annual or semi-annual basis to see if the metadata
needs to be updated. However, the general rule of thumb is to update the metadata when any changes
to the data have taken place--adding a new attribute, changing an attribute, publishing a new edition
- Where do I start?
Start with a list of your data. What are the file names, what is the data, and go from there. PASDA
is available to help you with this process along the way and will host your metadata/data when
you are done, if desired.
What are the main components of metadata and what do they mean?
PASDA maintains metadata for all of the data available for download through the site as well as
data made available by organizations and government agencies from throughout the state of Pennsylvania.
This provides a clearinghouse through which any potential data user can determine if certain data
is available and how to go about acquiring that data.
The metadata standard outlines a formal and structured document that contains information that
identifies a dataset and provides vital information pertaining to it's use. It also includes information
about how to acquire the data and where to contact for more information about the data. But the real
reason for metadata is to provide an answer to the most commonly asked questions. If you have a question
about data the first place to look is in the metadata. The answer is usually there.
- Identification Information
This includes the title, creator or originator of the data, an abstract describing the content of
the dataset, keywords for search engines and a contact information for a person or organization
for questions pertinent to the content or technical details about the data itself. If the data
is available directly through download, a link is provided to the dataset here.
- Data Quality Information
The Data Quality information contains information about the resolution or "scale" of the data, accuracy
of the assignment of attributes and the georeferencing of the data. Important information in this
section are descriptions of technical processes and citations for sources used in compiling the data
whether they be hard copy maps that were digitized, tabular information included in a database, or
digital data that was used in the creation of the current data. There is also contact information
for further information about the source materials or processes involved in creating the data.
- Spatial Data Organization Information
This tells the user whether this is vector or raster data and provides relevant details about the
vector objects or pixel dimensions of raster data
- Spatial Reference Information
A most important section this details the projection or coordinate system and associated modelling
specifications necessary for using the data or determining the usefulness of the data.
- Entity and Attribute Information
Provides an overview or detailed information on the attributes in the tables or fields in a database.
- Distribution Information
This gives information about how the data is available. For data downloaded from the PASDA site the
most relevant information will be the format of the data (Arc/Info Export, Shape-file, etc.) and
what compression schemes, if any, have been applied to the data. For datasets that are not available
online this section will also include the physical formats in which the data is available (CD-ROM,
tape cartridge, etc.) and contact information describing where and how to acquire the data.
- Metadata Reference Information
This is information about the format and creator of the metadata.
I found metadata on PASDA that does not have a data download link. How are Metadata
and Data on PASDA related?
The most important function of PASDA is identifying and documenting (creating metadata for) data
by, for, or about Pennsylvania. The metadata on PASDA serves the same function as the library catalog
in your local library. Without the catalog, you can't find the book or you don't know if the book
is the one you want. Metadata tells us where the data is and what it is about in our digital data
library known as PASDA. However, it is not always possible to acquire all the data that we document
since some data creators prefer to distribute data themselves. In these cases, the PASDA metadata
serves to alert our users to the existence of the data and provides contact information so users
can acquire the data from the provider.
In what format is PASDA metadata?
PASDA metadata is stored in a relational database but can be viewed as HTML on our website or downloaded
in XML format.
What is the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC)?
The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) is an interagency Committee, organized in 1990 that
promotes the coordinated use, sharing, and dissemination of geospatial data on a national basis.
Are there other organizations involved in metadata standards?
Yes. For those interested in biological metadata, the National Biological
Information Infrastructure (NBII) has developed an biological data profile for metadata based
on the FGDC model.