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Metadata – worth the effort?

With tight project budgets and time often at a premium, metadata can sometimes be seen as an unnecessary burden, however it can bring a wealth of benefits to organisations and the geospatial industry as a whole.


With tight project budgets and time often at a premium, metadata can sometimes be seen as an unnecessary burden, however it can bring a wealth of benefits to organisations and the geospatial industry as a whole.

To put it simply, metadata is data about data. It provides information about a data resource, from simple elements such as the title and abstract to detailed information on quality checks and methodology.

Data Discovery

With data increasingly being published online, the role of metadata in assisting with data discovery and identification is growing ever more important. Mandatory elements under most metadata standards include title, keywords, topic categories, spatial and temporal extent; these elements can be harvested by search functions within data portals, enabling tailored searches and efficient retrieval of results. Metadata standards such as the Discovery standard published by MEDIN promote consistency with the use of controlled vocabularies and standard title format, which in turn facilitates the efficient discovery of data.

Data Evaluation & Understanding

Technical metadata usually includes elements that enable the data suitability to be assessed, facilitating efficient data collation. For example, spatial resolution is a mandatory element within the MEDIN Discovery standard and is an important attribute to consider when dealing with gridded data such as bathymetry. An essential element for gaining understanding of data provenance and quality is lineage, which can include crucial information on data sources, processing methods and quality control checks. Without the inclusion of this information, it would be difficult to use the data with confidence.

Data Sharing

One advantage of publishing standardised metadata is that it facilitates data sharing and re-use, stimulating cooperation between organisations and supporting informed decision-making. The existence of sector-specific metadata standards, such as the MEDIN discovery standard for marine data, ensures the discovery of data by enforcing consistency of terminology that users are familiar with.


The advantages of metadata are abundantly clear, however to ensure these benefits are realised, metadata must be complete, valid and of a high quality. ABPmer’s data team has a wealth of experience in creating compliant metadata for a wide range of projects and sectors.

Prepared by Tom Perks, ABPmer Metadata Specialist


To discuss your data management needs call Chris Jackson, Head of Data Services at ABPmer on +44 (0) 2380 711856.