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What is metadata?

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Hello and welcome to CoreFacts, where we're always short on time and big on science. I'm Dane Klima.

Don't forget about our Be a CoreCast Host for a Day Contest and to send us your name and e-mail address to to enter! You could win a chance to host your very own episode of CoreCast. The randomly chosen and lucky winner will get to interview a scientist or talk about cool science topics. The contest ends Friday, September 26, 2008.

Now back to CoreFacts. Today's question is about Metadata.

What is metadata?

Metadata consist of information that characterizes data. In essence, metadata answer who, what, when, where, why, and how about every facet of the data that are being documented. Metadata are used to provide documentation for data products.

For example, metadata would answer the following questions: What geographic area does the data set cover? Does the data set describe conditions during a particular time period? Who produced the dataset? What were the objectives of the research that resulted in this data set?

And now you know. Join us every week for a new CoreFact. If you're looking for more in-depth science coverage, please check out the USGS CoreCast at To have your own question potentially featured on the air, send it to or leave a voicemail with us at 703-648-5600; however do remember that this may be a long distance charge, so long distance fees may apply.

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