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Metadata Review

Creating a metadata record doesn’t end when the content is generated. Metadata review is an essential part of the process of creating a metadata record, and can involve finding a reviewer, checking technical and content aspects of the metadata, and communicating with the author.

Finding a Reviewer

The review process can be quite lengthy, due to the reviewer's schedule and workload, the iterative nature of the review process, or new and unexplored content in a data release; therefore, it is best to start early and allow plenty of time for finding reviewers and the review itself. In fact, it's a good idea to think about who might be appropriate to review a project's data and metadata during the Planning stage and be prepared to correspond with the reviewer multiple times over the course of the project.

Metadata review does not have to fall to one person. It can be useful to split a review among people with different expertise (e.g., someone with GIS expertise could review the geospatial sections, a hydrologist could review the scientific content, and a metadata expert could review for integrity of the metadata).


Who makes a good reviewer?

A good reviewer should be familiar with metadata, and should ideally have created a metadata record* themselves in the past. They should also be familiar with the metadata format being used (FGDC CSDGM; ISO 19115). For content review, the reviewer should be familiar with the subject matter or type of data being described, such as biological data or geospatial data. It is also helpful to have a reviewer who is less familiar with the project and can objectively review it. Ideally, the same reviewer would perform a review of the data as well as the metadata.

* To learn more about creating metadata records see Metadata Creation.


Performing a Review

How to Review Metadata [PDF] provides a good overview of how to conduct a metadata review.

The USGS requires that metadata for publicly released data comply with the FGDC Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata (CSDGM) or the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 191xx suite of standards (SM 502.7); therefore, the guidance and workflow suggestions on this page are targeting review for those metadata standards. If a USGS researcher is depositing data in an external repository (see Acceptable Digital Repositories for USGS Scientific Publications and Data), regardless of the metadata requirements for that repository, they will still need to create a FGDC CSDGM or ISO 19115 metadata record and have it reviewed.


Check Metadata Format and Structure

XML metadata records promote machine-to-machine information exchange meaning that their content can be easily read into downstream metadata catalogs and displayed in a human-readable presentation; however, the XML metadata record must be properly formatted and structured for this machine-to-machine information exchange to take place.


ISO 191xx

  • A metadata check against the ISO 19139 Schema [.xsd] will validate basic structure and naming, but since there are few required fields in ISO, it offers little help with respect to verifying record quality; therefore, the format and structure check for ISO is a bit more manual than for FGDC CDSGM. Use the ISO 19139 Schema [.xsd] with XML Notepad, Oxygen XML Editor, or XMLSpy to make sure necessary namespaces are present. 


Content Metadata Review

  • Metadata should help facilitate a reader's understanding and usage of the data, in perpetuity. Successful validation through the Metadata Parser (MP) does not guarantee metadata record quality or usability for end users. A thorough metadata review involves examination of the data along with the metadata. The goal of the reviewer is to improve the integrity and quality of research results described in the metadata, while guiding the author's usage of proper data communication practices.

  • Metadata should highlight the author's scientific writing skills, be informative and engaging. It should never be stilted or overly complex. 

  • Metadata should concisely state the who, what, where, when and why of the data collection.

  • Learn about key metadata elements to examine [PDF]. This document was written for FGDC CSDGM but can still be applicable to ISO 19115-2.

  • See Top Ten Metadata Mistakes [PDF] for common errors in creating and reviewing FGDC CSDGM metadata.


Tools & Workflows for Reviewing Metadata 

Checklists for reviewers of data and metadata:


Sample workflow for USGS CSGDM metadata:

  1. The author submits the data in an archival format (open, non-proprietary, and machine-readable) and the metadata in an XML format to the reviewer.

  2. A data reviewer reviews the data/metadata:

    • The reviewer runs the XML through the Metadata Parser to validate it against the FGDC standard.

    • Either the author or the reviewer generates a review document.* 

    • The reviewer notates any commentary in the review document, regarding either the metadata or data.

    • The review document is returned to the author for edits.

  3. It is recommended that the review is repeated to verify all comments have been addressed. 

  4. It is recommended that the data and metadata be reviewed by a content peer, though this may be the same as the metadata reviewer, if that person has both the qualifications to review the content as well as knowledge of metadata standards and structured data best practices.

  5. The review documents and commentary are uploaded to the USGS internal review system.

Many metadata tools can generate a review document that can be imported into Microsoft Word for adding suggestions and comments. See examples below. For more information on each tool, see the Metadata Creation page.

screenshot of metadata review document generated from the Metadata Wizard
This is an example of a metadata review document that was generated by the Metadata Wizard. 


Tools for generating a metadata review document:

  • Metadata Wizard: Upload the metadata record to the Metadata Wizard by selecting “File”, then “Open” from the top bar. Once the record has loaded, select “Validation” from the top menu, then “Generate Review Doc”. This will automatically generate a document and open it in Word. It will include review info including the reviewers name, the date, and the title of the metadata record being reviewed. It will also have sections for summary, errors, and will also include the full metadata record.

  • Metadata Parser (MP): After validating the metadata record using MP, there will be a listing of different ways you can export the error list, including as an error report, outline, or zip file.



The Metadata Reviewers Community of Practice is a group within the USGS Community for Data Integration whose purpose is to develop a forum for people who review metadata, so that the standards across the USGS are consistent. Their website contains information about meetings, resources for data and metadata review, and links to training materials. It takes time to understand the metadata review process and metadata review tools. This community of practice is a great resource for people who are new to performing metadata reviews.


What the U.S. Geological Survey Manual Requires

Reviews of the data and the associated metadata are required, and these reviews must be documented in the internal USGS Information Product Data System (IPDS). It may be appropriate for the same person to conduct both the data and the metadata reviews. The metadata review ensures that the requirements of SM 502.7 are met.


** Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Page last updated 6/21/21.