What is metadata?

Last updated on Wed, 2013-12-18 15:57. Originally submitted by julio on 2010-05-21 19:20.

Metadata are information about data records. Some metadata are included in the OBIS data schema, and describe features of individual records (e.g. sampling method). Other “discovery” metadata describe a dataset. OBIS requires data providers to provide Discovery metadata in advance of data publication to allow comparison of the data published with what was anticipated, and to be aware of how planned data publication will contribute to OBIS. A standard citation is important to enable users to cite the dataset correctly. Other metadata, such as sampling, taxonomic, geographic, and habitat information enables OBIS to identify data gaps, and further data exploration features, such as a filter that would allow users to select datasets with planktonic data.

OBIS discovery metadata fields are:

  • Dataset name,
  • Citation (so data users can cite the dataset in standard format of author (or editors),
  • Title (descriptive),
  • Host institution,
  • Taxonomic coverage,
  • Geographic coverage,
  • Temporal coverage,
  • Habitat coverage,
  • Total distribution records,
  • Total number of taxa,
  • Collection method,
  • Data source,
  • Abstract (describes dataset),
  • Scientific Contact (responsible for data collection and accuracy),
  • Technical contact (responsible for data management),
  • Website,
  • Date this form completed,
  • Publications from this data (so users can read these for more details about the data origins and its uses).


Where standards exist for metadata these fields comply with them, but no standards yet exist for taxonomic, habitat and sampling metadata. OBIS is collaborating with international initiatives to develop marine ecological metadata standards that build on ISO, FGDC, GCMD and others. Collaboration between OBIS and the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) has developed the OBIS Master Directory at GCMD: http://gcmd.gsfc.nasa.gov/KeywordSearch/Home.do?Portal=OBIS&MetadataType=0


OBIS is a project of:
IODE Sponsored by:
Martin International and Les Grands Explorateurs
With in-kind support from:
Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab, Duke University
Universidad Simón Bolívar Flanders Marine Institute

OBIS strives to document the ocean's diversity, distribution and abundance of life. Created by the Census of Marine Life, OBIS is now part of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO, under its International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE) programme.