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Geospatial Metadata Standards

Most NSDI stakeholders have long utilized the Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata (CSDGM), which will continue to have a legacy for many years. International geospatial metadata standards are emerging in the community. FGDC policy states that non-Federally authored standards that are endorsed by the FGDC have the same status as FGDC developed standards. Since ISO 19115 and the associated standards are endorsed by the FGDC, federal agencies are encouraged to transition to ISO metadata as their agencies are able to do so. While the selection of appropriate standards is dependent on the nature of your metadata collection and publication process, ISO metadata should be considered an option now. It’s recognized that the transition to ISO metadata will be occurring over the next few years.

 

FGDC Endorsed ISO Metadata Standards

The Office of Management and Budget's Circular A-119 establishes policies on Federal use and development of voluntary consensus standards. The FGDC supports a process to endorse voluntary consensus standards in accordance with the  FGDC Policy on Recognition of Non-Federally Authored Geographic Information Standards and Specifications [PDF]. International geospatial metadata standards are found in the ISO suite of standards, referred to as the 191** series, which include but are not limited to:

  • ISO 19115:2003 Geographic information – Metadata (corrigendum 1): The base ISO metadata standard for the description of geographic information and services. Expected to be replaced by ISO 19115-1:2014 - Geographic Information – Metadata – Part 1: Fundamentals.
  • ISO 19115–2:2009 Geographic information - Metadata - Part 2: Extensions for the description of imagery, gridded data and data collected using instruments, e.g. monitoring stations and measurement devices. These extensions also include improved descriptions of lineage and processing information. 
  • North American Profile (NAP) of ISO 19115: A US and Canada joint profile of ISO 19115:2003 that extends some domains, increases conditionality for some elements, and specifies best practices for populating most elements.
  • ISO 19110:2005 Geographic information – Methodology for Feature Cataloging: An affiliate standard that supports the detailed description of feature types (roads, rivers, classes, rankings, measurements, etc.) in a manner similar to the CSDGM Entity/Attribute Section. The standard can be used in conjunction with ISO 19115 to document geospatial data set feature types or independently to document data models or other feature class representations.
  • ISO 19119:2005 Geographic information - Services - Amendment 1: Extensions of the service metadata model An affiliate standard that supports the detailed description of digital geospatial services including geospatial data portals, web mapping applications, data models and online data processing services. The standard can be used in conjunction with ISO 19115 to document services associated with a specific data set/series or independently to document a service.
  • ISO 19139:2007 Geographic information -- Metadata -- XML schema implementation: An XML document that specifies the format and general content of an ISO 19115 the metadata record. 

More information about these standards is available from the FGDC Endorsed External Standards page on the FGDC website. 

The FGDC plans to go through the process to endorse several additional ISO geospatial metadata standards including: ISO 19115-1: 2014 Geographic information -- Metadata -- Part 1: Fundamentals; ISO 19157: 2013 Geographic information -- Data Quality; and ISO 19110:2005/Amd 1:2011 -- Feature Catalog. 

Which ISO Metadata Standards Do Organizations Utilize?

ISO metadata standards support different agency and collaboration requirements in specific ways:

  • ISO 19115-2 is the preferred standard for organizations actively implementing ISO Metadata as it includes all of the elements of ISO 19115 as well as additional elements that are relevant to many geospatial data sets (raster, imagery, GPS, monitor stations, instruments, etc.).
  • ISO 19139 is an XML schema that specifies the format of the metadata record and is used by application developers to implement the standard.
  • Few organizations have implemented the North American Profile (NAP) of ISO 19115 primarily due to the broader scope of ISO 19115-2. However, the NAP does provide a rich source of best practices as well as strengthened conditionality and expanded domains that are used by many ISO implementers.
  • The forthcoming, ISO 19115-1, despite its numbering, was developed after ISO 19115-2 and is an updated version of the base standard (ISO 19115). In addition to changes to the structure of some base elements and the content of some domains, ISO 19115-1 expands upon the former standard by providing more fields to describe geospatial data services (ISO 19119), multi-dimensional gridded datasets, modeling results, etc., and enabling entity/attribute descriptions developed using ISO 19110: Feature Catalog to be associated with or integrated into the metadata record.

Should Our Agency be using ISO Metadata?

Most NSDI stakeholders have long utilized the Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata (CSDGM), which will continue to have a legacy for many years. International geospatial metadata standards are emerging in the community. FGDC policy states that non-Federally authored standards that are endorsed by the FGDC have the same status as FGDC developed standards. Since ISO 19115 and the associated standards are endorsed by the FGDC, federal agencies are encouraged to transition to ISO metadata as their agencies are able to do so. While the selection of appropriate standards is dependent on the nature of your metadata collection and publication process, ISO metadata should be considered an option now. It’s recognized that the transition to ISO metadata will be occurring over the next few years.

If you have a metadata collection whose contents can be accessed as XML or metadata management software that supports ISO metadata… consider converting your FGDC metadata in XML format into the ISO XML format (see Resources section below on how-to convert via NOAA XSLT) and use an ISO metadata editor tool to create and update it. Commercial and open source metadata editor solutions exist (ISO Metadata Editor Review) that will integrate with your current environment. In addition, the new geo.data.gov catalog is now able to harvest and index published collections of ISO metadata just as easily as FGDC CSDGM metadata.

If you have a largely static CSDGM metadata collection, one that is embedded in a database in which conversion to ISO is not supported, or cannot afford conversion… consider keeping the representation in CSDGM format until such time as your software and fiscal environment can support conversion or consider whether or not the existing content can be translated to ISO without loss of information.

If you are planning a geospatial software lifecycle update… include a conversion of your CSDGM metadata to ISO XML (see Resources section below on how-to convert via NOAA XSLT) at that point in the refresh cycle. The new solutions should manage and allow editing and presentation of metadata in ISO format.

Factors to Consider

Organizations that actively produce geospatial metadata should consider the following in the selection of variants of metadata standards and solutions:

Data Type - The type of geospatial resource you document will affect your standard selection.

  • CSDGM was developed for the documentation of GIS vector, raster and point data.
  • ISO 19115 was developed for the documentation of GIS vector and point data and geospatial data services such as web-mapping applications, data catalogs, and data modeling applications.
  • ISO 19115-2 fully includes ISO 19115 and adds elements to describe imagery and gridded data as well as data collected using instruments, e.g. monitoring stations and measurement devices.

Capabilities - The ISO suite of geospatial metadata standards, referred to as the 191** series, supports improved metadata development and management capabilities that may directly support organizational data activities.

  • Documentation of geospatial services
  • Documentation of data models, analytical methods, application schemas, and symbology
  • Improved documentation of related online resources and spatial/temporal extents
  • Greater flexibility due to increased number of elements and fewer mandatory elements
  • Increased use of fixed domains (code lists) to support standardization of information
  • Creation of hierarchical or parent/child metadata that supports the effective documentation of data sets and data set collections
  • Creation of reusable modular metadata units, referred to as metadata ‘snippets’, that can be created and edited as a single component (contact, source, process) but referenced by multiple records using W3C XML Linking Language (XLink)
  • Option to publish basic metadata that only references related modular content or to ‘resolve’ the record and publish complete metadata that fully incorporates the referenced content
  • Ability to go ‘deeper’ into specific documentation areas by incorporating affiliate ISO documentation standards for data quality, feature catalog/attributes, application schemas/models, coordinate systems, and others
  • Ability to document the language and character set of both datasets and metadata
  • Ability to assign unique identifiers to both the data set and the related metadata

Resources

At this time there is no single software solution to implement ISO metadata. Software developers are fully engaged and a variety of applications are available. Data managers are actively exploring implementation strategies. Outreach specialists have piloted training materials. Most importantly, the community is engaged in a sustained dialog of shared experiences, concerns and opportunities. Each of these efforts, however, requires skilled personnel, dedicated staff time, software, and other resources. Fortunately, early implementers, such as NOAA, have developed the following key resources that can be used to learn about the ISO suite of standards and ease the transition.

Even with these resources, organizations must still be willing to invest time, money and energy into the exploration, application, and integration of these resources. In addition, though materials such as the NOAA ISO workbooks provide detailed information about the standards and their elements, the formal ISO metadata standards are not publically available and organizations that want to access the published standards must purchase them from the ISO store or, if you are located in the United States, through the American National Standards Institute –ANSI.


ISO Metadata Implementation is Happening

Federal, State, local and private organizations are active applying the expanded capabilities supported by the ISO suite of standards to their data documentation and management operations. Consumers of this data must be prepared to comprehend and ingest ISO metadata. While the US geospatial metadata community will likely continue to utilize both CSDGM and ISO metadata for the interim, organizations are strongly encouraged to educate themselves about ISO metadata via this website, the resources listed above, the Preparing for International Metadata guidance document, and calls to review draft standards and training materials. In addition, organizations are requested to share their implementation experiences, strategies, and products with others via the FGDC Metadata Working Group, the NOAA ISO Implementation wiki, NSDI Cooperative Agreements Program (CAP), and other related forums.


The Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata (CSDGM)

The Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata (CSDGM), Vers. 2 (FGDC-STD-001-1998) is the current US Federal Metadata standard. The FGDC originally adopted the CSDGM in 1994 and revised it in 1998. According to Executive Order 12906, all Federal agencies are ordered to use this standard to document geospatial data created as of January 1995. The standard is often referred to as the 'FGDC Metadata Standard' and has been implemented beyond the federal level with State and local governments adopting the metadata standard as well.

CSDGM Resources

  • CSDGM Workbook - The CSDGM Workbook is a user-friendly view of the standard that includes background on the development of the standard, explanations of special format requirements, example values, FAQs, and sample metadata. This workbook is highly recommended for use in all introductory metadata training and as a desktop reference guide.
  • CSDGM Graphical Representation - This set of color-coded diagrams developed by Susan Stitt of the USGS Biological Resources Division provides a graphical representation of each section of the CSDGM, the elements contained within the section and the conditionality of the elements.
  • CSDGM Document Type Declaration - An XML Document Type Definition (DTD) file developed by Peter N. Schweitzer (U.S. Geological Survey) for validating XML-encoded metadata against the FGDC's core standard.
  • CSGDM XML Schema Document representations for validating XML-encoded metadata against the FGDC's core standard.
  • CSDGM Standard - This is the official technical specification of the CSDGM Standard. This document is recommended for those familiar with the nomenclature of standards technical documentation and those developing metadata creation and publication software applications.
  • CSDGM HTML Version - The CSDGM Standard technical specification expressed as HTML

CSDGM Profiles and Extensions

A key feature of the CSDGM Version 2 is the ability of geospatial data communities to customize the base CSDGM. Extensions are a set of added elements that extend the standard to better serve the community or data type. Profiles are custom adaptations of the standard that may specify specific domain values for existing CSDGM elements and/or increase conditionality of a specific element. Profiles may also included extensions.

FGDC Endorsed Extensions to the CSDGM Version 2 (FGDC-STD-001-1998):

  • Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata: Extensions for Remote Sensing Metadata - Extended elements to support the documentation of geospatial data directly obtained from remote sensing. This extension includes elements that describe the remote sensing platform and sensors. This extension is intended for the documentation of data collected directly from the sensor. It is not intended for the documentation of data derived from remotely sensed data such as classified imagery. The core CSDGM standard should be used to document derived data.

FGDC Endorsed Profiles of the CSDGM Version 2 (FGDC-STD-001-1998):

  • Biological Data Profile of the Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata - The profile broadens the application of the CSDGM so that it is more easily applied to data that are not explicitly geographic (laboratory results, field notes, specimen collections, research reports) but can be associated with a geographic location. The profile changes the conditionality and domains of CSDGM elements, requires the use of a specified taxonomical vocabulary, and adds elements.
  • Metadata Profile for Shoreline Data - The profile addresses variability in the definition and mapping of shorelines by providing a standardized set of terms and data elements required to support metadata for shoreline and coastal data sets. The profile also includes a glossary and bibliography.
Last Updated: Sep 12, 2014 11:28 AM
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