Metadata are not as complicated as metaphysics: Metadata are only data about data

10.04.2018

The function of metadata in the context of archives and libraries is the structured description of the administered resources. The standardized structure enables searching, finding, and selecting relevant resources.

Metadata are often the only form of “communication” between the user and the data producer and high quality metadata are essential for effective data use and reuse. Metadata should describe the available data resources of an archive in a comprehensive way, allowing a sufficient basis for decision-making for the potential user. To this end, AUSSDA follows the metadata standards of the Data Documentation Initiative (DDI) and the Consortium of European Social Science Data Archives (CESSDA ERIC).

AUSSDA uses interoperable formats for the metadata and so do other CESSDA-archives. This will allow a European-wide social science data catalogue in the future. With the usage of a controlled vocabulary the metadata are also findable in other languages. Controlled vocabulary needs the input of standardized terms and for every term with an available translation, the metadata can automatically be translated to other languages. The topic and keyword classification can be done in the same way.  

Production of Metadata

In the production of high quality metadata our data depositors play a vital role as they have the most knowledge about the data that we want to archive. Some information can also be found in the research and methods reports, but going through all reports can sometimes be very time consuming. Necessary information is sometimes missing from the reports or additional contextual knowledge about the production may be necessary to describe the dataset sufficiently. Because of this reason we need the help of our depositors when creating a metadata record.

AUSSDA tries to make the acquisition and creation of metadata easy and effortless for the depositors. For this purpose we have produced manuals and documentation. The time invested in creating thorough metadata documentation will very often be rewarded with an increased data usage. As citation is necessary when using AUSSDA data, the depositor benefits from producing comprehensive metadata with increased visibility.  

A wordcloud of metadata terms
Metadata are vital for understanding datasets, however, they are difficult to visualize!