Metadata are created and maintained because they improve use of research data and enable their re-use.
Good metadata can make up for human shortcomings. People forget and misplace things, and leave research projects, taking their knowledge of the research methodology and the data with them. Metadata ensure that data are FAIR: Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Re-usable.
- Findable: Metadata make it much easier to find relevant data. Most searches are done using text (like a Google search), so formats like audio, images, and video are limited unless textual metadata are available. Metadata also make text documents easier to find because they explain exactly what the document is about.
- Accessible: Once someone finds the data they need, metadata indicate how they can be accessed, possibly including authentication and authorization.
- Interoperable : Assigning metadata enables a data set to be integrated with other data. In addition, they also make it easier for data to interoperate with applications or workflows for analysis, storage, and processing.
- Re-usable: To re-use a data set, researchers need to understand how the data are structured, definitions of terms used, how they were collected, and how they should be read or used. Data need to be well-described so that they can be replicated and/or combined in different settings.
Learn more about making data FAIR at https://www.go-fair.org/fair-principles/.