GIS Metadata – The 5Ws

Have you ever wondered how GIS Analysts work their way through thousands of files of data? How do they manage to extract information about certain locations and their characteristics in a matter of seconds?

Every day, millions of people around the world use GIS devices and software to build feasibility reports and complete projects- adding to the already existing location information on the network. With more data being added by the second; shouldn’t GIS Analyst have a hard time finding maps to use? This is one of the most frequently asked questions regarding the availability and accessibility of Geographic Information Systems.

What Is GIS Metadata?

Generally, Metadata refers to creating data that represent complex information. In other words, it is data about data. It’s often used to describe data files that may be present in a large quantity; hence making it easier for people to find the relevant information. For instance, the most common example of Metadata includes the recording of information like- Name of author, Data of Creation, File Size and Modification Data for any file.

In short, such data are often referred to as the Who, When, What, Why and Where – which give the most basic summary of the document. In Geo-Spatial terminology, Metadata documents Geographic Digital Data such as GIS files, Mapping Applications, Catalogs, Websites, Data Models and GIS Databases. When it is complied, Geo-Spatial Metadata includes three core data types namely;

  1. Catalog Elements
  • Title
  • Publication Date
  • Abstract
  1. Database Elements
  • Attribute Label Definitions
  • Attribute Domain Values
  1. Geographic Elements
  • Projection Information
  • Geographic Extent

Introduction Of The Best Metadata Tools

There is a lot to know about Metadata and the tools used to develop it. These tools are software designed and developed for the creation of Metadata. Since the purpose behind Metadata is to represent large files and documents, efficiency and flexibility are two very important characteristics of Metadata tools.

As the field of GIS develops, so do the methods used to come up with Metadata and its usage. A number of commercial tools have been developed; some of which have to be purchased, while others are available for free.

However, adequate time and research have to be dedicated to make sure that the tools used for the collection of such information are suitable for its purpose. To make sure that the best Metadata tools are being employed, the following questions should be asked before implementation.

  • What features are ranked highest? Is it ease of use and automatic collection of information or is it the pairing of metadata with relevant files? The features that are most important to you should be looked up against each tool.
  • Do you need the tool to document files that are only within the GIS or outside it too? The answer to this question determines how robust the tool under consideration should be.
  • Do you need to distribute the tool to others? If yes, make sure this feature is available with the tool you pick.
  • Do you want the tool to support various extensions? If this is a requirement, you will have to make sure that the Metadata tools are compatible with other extensions.

Some Of The More Popular GIS Metadata Tools Include:

  • GIS Investory – The GIS Metadata created with the GIS Investory complies with the Federal Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata (CSDGM). GIS Inventory is a free web-based tool in which participants input their data layers through a survey interface. Metadata that has already been created can be uploaded to the system using server connectivity. All files and Metadata are then made available to the US Federal Agencies.
  • GeoCat Bridge- This tool supports a number of GIS metadata profiles. It lets users input, edit and validate information, the Metadata for which is published from the ArcGISDesktop to the GeoNetwork.
  • GeoNetwork Opensource- GeoNetwork Opensource is part of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation. It is available free of charge and is a highly comprehensive solution to manage Metadata according to international standards.
  • PYCSW- PYCSW implements the OpenGIS Catalogue Service Implementation Specification and is written in the language ‘python.’ It is a certified GIS Metadata creation and managing tool that powers platforms like the Geoplatform.gov and Data.gov. It is compatible with several applications and can also function as a standalone system.

If you have any questions or comments, let us know directly below.

References:

Image source: http://aspiresquared.co.uk/2011/01/metadata-what-is-its-purpose/
http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/metadata
https://www.fgdc.gov/metadata

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