The Big Earth Data Initiative

From Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP)


The ESIP Documentation Cluster is working with the U.S. Big Earth Data Initiative (BEDI) to improve the discoverability, accessibility, and usability of Federal data and information products derived from civil Earth observations. BEDI is an initiative of the White House Office of Science Technology and Policy (OSTP) (see that will be coordinated through the US Group on Earth Observations (USGEO) Subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) Committee on Environment Natural Resources and Sustainability (CENRS).

Metadata are a critical component of the Big Earth Data Initiative (BEDI). Metadata are essential for facilitating data discovery, access, usability and understanding. The purpose of this BEDI project is to provide data producers with the guidance necessary to create high quality metadata. We are developing a new ensemble approach for identifying criteria for high quality metadata in multiple earth science documentation dialects and providing quantitative tools for evaluating and improving metadata using those criteria. The Documentation Connections Category on the ESIP Documentation Cluster Wiki is the community focal point for this activity.

Documentation Terminology

The terminology used in this work has been developed over many years of metadata and documentation related work in NOAA, NASA and other U.S. Federal Agencies. Our terminology is described to ensure effective communication.

Metadata Recommendations

Data and observations are many times collected within small research groups or organizations in order to address specific scientific questions. Preparing data for re-use or sharing with other groups or non-experts brings a different set of documentation requirements and many research groups look for guidance about how to satisfy those new requirements. Many groups within the U.S. and the global environmental data community have addressed this need for guidance, generally in the form of lists of metadata elements required, recommended, or suggested for a particular documentation need. We term these lists recommendations.

Concepts & Spirals

Documentation recommendations are made up of lists of concepts, usually given in some dialect. Managers must identify recommendations that are relevant to their situations and concepts that are included in those recommendations. We term the selection of relevant recommendations a Selection Scenario. Typically a group of concepts will be required to address a particular documentation needs or use cases. We term these groups spirals.

Spirals provide criteria for evaluating the completeness of documentation content for different metadata use cases such as discovery, access, usage or understanding, and for various metadata topics such as citations, people or identifiers. The elements that comprise a spiral are called concepts. Some concepts may be reused in multiple spirals. See the Concepts Glossary page to view a reference list of metadata concepts. See the Documentation Spirals page to view metadata completeness spirals for metadata types, and topics.

Documentation Dialects

Numerous documentation dialects exist within the Earth Science Community. Once required concepts are identified, dialects must be selected that include those concepts. Our goal is to provide information about concepts in many dialects.

Page - Section 3 - Metadata Implementation