The historic view of metadata as “data about data” is expanding to include data about other items that must be created, used, and understood throughout the data and project life cycles. In this context, metadata might better be defined as the structured and standard part of documentation, and the metadata life cycle can be described as the metadata content that is required for documentation in each phase of the project and data life cycles. This incremental approach to metadata creation is similar to the spiral model used in software development. Each phase also has distinct users and specific questions to which they need answers. In many cases, the metadata life cycle involves hierarchies where latter phases have increased numbers of items. The relationships between metadata in different phases can be captured through structure in the metadata standard, or through conventions for identifiers. Metadata creation and management can be streamlined and simplified by re-using metadata across many records. Many of these ideas have been developed to various degrees in several Geoscience disciplines and are being used in metadata for documenting the integrated life cycle of environmental research in the Arctic, including projects, collection sites, and datasets.
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