Information Management: Data Documentation

IM Guide » Data Submission » Data Documentation


The usefulness and longevity of any data archive is largely determined by the completeness and consistency of the data documentation, or metadata. The metadata describe the physical and logical structure of a data set, as well as the hypotheses, methodology and researchers responsible for its creation.

Submitting Metadata

As noted elsewhere, Investigators who are ready to submit data should use the CWT Data Submission Form. The download for these forms includes on their use. In addition to using the forms and their instructions, please consult the CWT Site Standards page to review recommendations for naming variables and reporting units.  Following these guidelines is strongly encouraged to maximize the inter-comparability of data sets within the project.

Metadata Standards

Guidelines and standards for content and formatting of ecological metadata are constantly changing as the science of ecological informatics evolves and new applications are envisioned. In order to accommodate future changes in metadata standards, CWT adopted GCE's approach in which metadata content is managed in a normalized relational database structure (e.g. the Metabase). Web applications and data processing programs dynamically query this database in order to provide custom-formatted metadata to suit various end-user requirements. Official ecological metadata standards currently supported by the CWT LTER project are listed below.

LTER Metadata Standard (EML)


Metadata standards within the LTER Network are being revised and expanded to support new LTER Network Information System (NIS) objectives, NSF directives, and proposed grid computing initiatives.  These new standards require that documentation for both geospatial and non-geospatial metadata be provided in computer-readable XML formats based on the  Ecological Metadata Language schema (EML). In order to support these initiatives, comprehensive metadata in EML 2.0.0 format is available for all data sets in the CWT-LTER Data Catalog.

CWT Geospatial Metadata Standard 

Following the procedures adopted by GCE, Metadata from GIS-based research projects will be generated by ESRI® ArcInfo according to Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) standards, or created using other FGDC-compliant tools such as NBII MetaMaker.  Geospatial metadata will be provided along with GIS data products in XML format. We are also working toward a solution to integrate geospatial metadata into our EML via the metabase.

CWT Non-geospatial Metadata Standard for MatLab

CWT datasets generated with the MatLab GCE Toolbox, including many tabular data sets, will have metadata that is GCE's implementation of content and formatting standards recommended by the Ecological Society of America's Committee on the Future of Long-term Ecological Data (ESA-FLED).

The major categories of metadata descriptors are in the Metadata Field Reference .