What are Metadata?
A metadata record is a file of information, usually presented as an XML document, which captures the basic characteristics of a data or information resource. It represents the who, what, when, where, why and how of the resource. Geospatial metadata commonly document geographic digital data such as Geographic Information System (GIS) files, geospatial databases, and earth imagery but can also be used to document geospatial resources including data catalogs, mapping applications, data models and related websites. Metadata records include core library catalog elements such as Title, Abstract, and Publication Data; geographic elements such as Geographic Extent and Projection Information; and database elements such as Attribute Label Definitions and Attribute Domain Values.
The FGDC is tasked by an Executive Order to develop procedures and assist in the implementation of a distributed discovery mechanism for national digital geospatial data. Geospatial metadata are critical to data discovery and serves as the fuel for the NSDI Clearinghouse.
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. For more information, see the Geospatial Metadata Standards and Guidance page.