Metadata is data about data. It is stored in a structured way so that it can be read by both humans and machines.

Metadata is structured, machine-readable information about research data, so-called "data about data". A classic example is bibliographic metadata such as author, title, year of publication, and publisher. They serve several functions: to ensure the discoverability of the data, to improve the understandability of the data, and to enable the processing and reuse of the data (Putnings et al. 2021, Riley 2017).

Metadata is stored in a structured way so that it can be read and processed by both humans and machines. Various data exchange formats have become established for this purpose, such as XML (eXtensible Markup Language) and JSON (JavaScript Object Notation).

In order for research data to remain comprehensible, consistent and interoperable, it is important that the associated metadata follow a certain structure. For this reason, a number of cross-disciplinary as well as discipline-specific metadata schemas have evolved and are now considered standards. More detailed information can be found at

For more information on describing research data using the DataCite metadata schema as an example, see the following video from Research Data Management Bavaria, using the DataCite Metadata Generator and the associated Best Practice Guide.


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