ARCHIVE: Veterinary surveillance: What is metadata and why is it important?
Metadata is often described as ‘data about data’ and is basically a list of labels about a source of information, just like those you might find on an everyday product in a supermarket. Such labels describe the product in a manner a person can easily understand and contain information that is useful, both to the consumer (e.g. the ingredients) and the electronic computer systems that control the store (e.g. the barcode). Similarly metadata can be included with documents or other information sources for the same reasons. By storing labels about information such as what it is about, how it was collected and by whom etc., we can make it easier for people to find it and allow computers to process it effectively. Imagine shopping in a supermarket without labels. It would be a nightmare. Dealing with information that has no metadata can be almost as hard (adapted from ‘A Layman's Introduction to Metadata’ Bill Hutchinson, Wordmap, 14/10/03).
So there are essentially two aims of metadata: to make information findable, and to make it manageable, usually by computer systems.
Each ‘label’ of Metadata is called an ‘element’. Each element may contain one or more ‘refinements’. These refinements give extra details about each element, which help to describe the information in more detail. Metadata elements and refinements are often written as ‘Element.refinement’, e.g. the element ‘Date’ and its refinement ‘Created’ would be written as Date.Created = 11/02/2002
Metadata and RADAR
Metadata can be applied to any kind of digital content e.g. text, data, images etc. and within the public sector it has been recognised that joined-up Government requires joined-up information systems. Consequently as part of the e-Government Interoperability Framework (e-GIF), the e-Government Metadata Standards (e-GMS) were drawn up to ensure maximum consistency of metadata across the Government. RADAR is obliged to adhere to these standards and has used them to develop a standard way of describing metadata about the information held in the RADAR computer system and the reports published from it.
August 28, 2008
Page last modified: August 28, 2008