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What is metadata and why is it important?

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Put simply, metadata is descriptive information about data. Metadata enables visitors find and use published data effectively. Good metadata reduces the need for visitors to seek personal assistance, helps prevent misinterpretation of data, and encourages higher data quality. Without it, a catalog of published data could not exist. Metadata is generally divided into two types:

  • Metadata that provides an overview of the data. This kind of metadata helps people find the data through internet searches, while navigating your portal, or even while navigating other data portals which might include your catalog.
  • Metadata that provides details about specific parts of your data. This kind of metadata enables people to use your data effectively, by helping them understand the various elements it includes and potential limitations.

The GovEx publication “Getting Meta with Metadata” provides an introduction to metadata and describes its basic elements.

Answered January 24, 2016