Metadata role

2.1 What is Metadata?
2.1.1 Metadata is “data about data”. In other words, it is data that is used to describe or label other data. The sort of descriptive data that might be used to describe other data are:
Who is responsible for the data?

What is the subject matter?

When was it last updated?

Where does it have jurisdiction?

Which language is it written in?

2.1.2 More generally, metadata may be used to describe resources other than data. In the context of the Internet, metadata is used to describe the content of a particular web page. Its primary purpose is to enable individuals to locate web pages meeting specified criteria relating to properties such as authorship or subject. A more detailed definition with an example of metadata use is in Appendix B.
2.1.3 Metadata may be stored with the resources it is describing or separately, for example:
The Dewey Decimal Classification number of a book is printed inside the front cover of the book as part of its metadata (other metadata includes the author and subject of the book);

The library holds a separate catalogue showing all the Dewey Decimal Classifications numbers and the subjects they represent.

2.1.4 On the Internet, the metadata is commonly stored with the particular web page it is describing in such a way that it is not displayed to the reader but is accessible to a Search Engine (Endnote 3).
2.2 Benefits of Metadata
2.2.1 There are benefits arising from the use of metadata to the owner of the data on the website and the people searching for it.
2.2.2 In summary, these benefits are that:
Owners of web sites have confidence that people interested in the topics covered by their site will find it;

People will have confidence that they will find good quality sites covering the topics in which they are interested.

2.2.3 In more detail, the benefits to the owner are:
Metadata becomes part of the “corporate memory”. Even where staff turnover is high, accurate metadata means that all information on a particular topic is readily accessible;

It provides a clear and consistent structure for the storage of information;

It promotes regular maintenance of the data through the identification of data that has not been updated since a certain date;

It offers indirect evidence of the quality of the data in that an organisation that invests time and money in the creation of accurate metadata is likely to have made a similar investment in the data itself;

It increases the visibility of the website to Search Engines (Endnote 4);

It increases the acceptability of the website to Search Engines;

It reduces cost by making the data easier and quicker to find.

2.2.4 The benefits to the user are:
Searching for information is easier and more effective with consistent terminology;

It allows for both more precise retrieval i.e. only data meeting the specified criteria and more comprehensive searching i.e. all the data meeting the specified criteria;

It allows for an indirect assessment to be made of the quality of the information. This might be through either the very presence of metadata or a specific piece of metadata, for example the date of last update.


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