3.2 Metadata

Metadata is data about your data. It includes information about your data’s content, structure, authors, and permissions to make your data interpretable and usable by your future self and others. EVERY data file should be accompanied by a metadata file.

This includes files that people tend to overlook or think are not useful for the broader team. For example, if you’re using Google Sheets to keep track of literature or data reviews for a specific project, these documents should also have some form of accompanying metadata.

3.2.1 Metadata Standards

We use “readme” style metadata, named _readme_datafilename, and stored in the same folder as the data file.

  • Create one readme file for each data file. Download and use this template to create your readme file (when one is not already available).

  • Name the readme _readme_datafilename and save as a text file.

  • Format the readme so it is easy to understand (use bullets, break up information, etc.)

  • Use a standardized date format (YYYY-MM-DD)

We acknowledge that it may not always be feasible to draft robust metadata immediately when a dataset is first uploaded to the emlab/data folder. In this case, a minimal readme file can be created as a temporary placeholder that contains the following information: your name, contact info, a very brief (1-2 lines) description of the data, and a note on how you obtained them. Please refer to the Data Directory subheading for further instruction on how to incorporate this form of temporary documentation into the emLab Data Directory.

For files that may be considered more “internal notes” than datasets (Google Sheets example mentioned above), please ensure that some sort of metadata is present. One alternative to a “readme” file is to create an extra tab on the Google Sheet labeled “metadata”. Here, you can include information on the column names (column 1) and their definitions (column 2). This allows collaborators and team members to easily interpret the columns and use the dataset appropriately.

3.2.2 Where to Store Metadata

All readme metadata files are stored in the folder that contains the data file in the emLab Data Directory.