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Forum Guide to Metadata
NFES 2009-805
July 2009

What are metadata?

  • To a technology professional, metadata are "information about data warehouses (and other technical systems), including queries, reports, transformations, tables, columns, and users." (Adapted from Lee and Kim, A Metadata Oriented Architecture for Building a Datawarehouse, Journal of Database Management.)
  • To a data professional, metadata are "Data about data, and not data in and of themselves; they describe the content, quality, condition, and other characteristics of the data." (Adapted from El-Sherbini, and Klim, Metadata and Cataloging Practices, The Electronic Library.)
  • To a program manager, metadata are "All information necessary and sufficient to enable long-term secondary use (reuse) of a data set by the original collector, as well as by other users not directly involved in the original collection efforts." (Adapted from Michener, et al., Nongeospatial Metadata for the Ecological Sciences, Ecological Applications.)
  • To a librarian, metadata are "Elements through which resources can be described and searched." (Adapted from Clyde, Metadata, Teacher Librarian.)

Complete references are listed in appendix E.