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Documentation and metadata

Metadata and documentation are crucial in making data findable and reusable in the future, by both the creators and others. Metadata provides information about an item of data or dataset; it supports the discovery, understanding and management of other data and information.

The University of Manchester and many research funders, including the EPSRC, require researchers to provide metadata which allows others to understand how the associated research data was created and how it can be discovered. Where possible it is best to use metadata schemas and standards which are recognised within your discipline and you can find examples of these in the Research Data Alliance Metadata Directory or at FAIRsharing.org.

Key elements of metadata

Metadata for online data catalogues or discovery tools are often structured to international standards or schemes designed for specific purposes or subjects that may include the following:

  • Title
  • Date
  • Subject descriptors
  • Creator(s) (Creator of the dataset; main researchers involved)
  • Funders
  • File format
  • Storage location of the data (including identifier information)
  • Origin of the data (creation/acquisition of the data)
  • Time references for the data (key dates associated with the data: start, end, release, etc)
  • Access conditions
  • Terms of use of the data.

The UK Data Service provides further information on documentation and metadata.

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