Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata
Federal Geographic Data Committee
Federal Geographic Data Committee
Department of Agriculture ; Department of Commerce ; Department of Defense ; Department of Energy
Department of Housing and Urban Development ; Department of the Interior ; Department of State
Department of Transportation ; Environmental Protection Agency
Federal Emergency Management Agency ; Library of Congress
National Aeronautics and Space Administration ; National Archives and Records Administration
Tennessee Valley Authority
Federal Geographic Data Committee
Established by Office of Management and Budget Circular A-16, the Federal Geographic Data Committee
(FGDC) promotes the coordinated development, use, sharing, and dissemination of geographic data.
The FGDC is composed of representatives from the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense,
Energy, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, State, and Transportation; the Environmental
Protection Agency; the Federal Emergency Management Agency; the Library of Congress; the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration; the National Archives and Records Administration; and the
Tennessee Valley Authority. Additional Federal agencies participate on FGDC subcommittees and
working groups. The Department of the Interior chairs the committee.
FGDC subcommittees work on issues related to data categories coordinated under the circular.
Subcommittees establish and implement standards for data content, quality, and transfer; encourage the
exchange of information and the transfer of data; and organize the collection of geographic data to reduce
duplication of effort. Working groups are established for issues that transcend data categories.
For more information about the committee, or to be added to the committee's newsletter mailing list, please
Federal Geographic Data Committee Secretariat
c/o U.S. Geological Survey
590 National Center
Reston, Virginia 20192
Telephone: (703) 648-5514
Facsimile: (703) 648-5755
Internet (electronic mail): firstname.lastname@example.org
Anonymous FTP: fgdc.er.usgs.gov
WWW Home Page: http://www.fgdc.gov
The following is the recommended bibliographic citation for this publication: Federal Geographic Data Committee. FGDC-STD-001-1998. Content standard for digital geospatial
metadata (revised June 1998). Federal Geographic Data Committee. Washington, D.C.
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .iv
Organization of the Standard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vii
Metadata . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Identification Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Data Quality Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10
Spatial Data Organization Information. . . . . . . . . . .16
Spatial Reference Information. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19
Entity and Attribute Information . . . . . . . . . . . . .37
Distribution Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .42
Metadata Reference Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . .50
Citation Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .53
Time Period Information. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .56
Contact Information. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .58
Glossary. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .61
Alphabetical List of Compound Elements and Data Elements68
References. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .72
Guidelines for Creating Extended Elements in the Content Standard for Digital
Guidelines for Creating a Profile for the Content Standard for Digital
1. Objectives. The objectives of the standard are to provide a common set of terminology and definitions
for the documentation of digital geospatial data. The standard establishes the names of data elements and
compound elements (groups of data elements) to be used for these purposes, the definitions of these
compound elements and data elements, and information about the values that are to be provided for the
The major uses of metadata are:
to maintain an organization's internal investment in geospatial data,
to provide information about an organization's data holdings to data catalogues, clearinghouses, and
to provide information needed to process and interpret data to be received through a transfer from an
The information included in the standard was selected based on four roles that metadata play:
availability -- data needed to determine the sets of data that exist for a geographic location.
fitness for use -- data needed to determine if a set of data meets a specific need.
access -- data needed to acquire an identified set of data.
transfer -- data needed to process and use a set of data.
These roles form a continuum in which a user cascades through a pyramid of choices to determine what
data are available, to evaluate the fitness of the data for use, to access the data, and to transfer and process
the data. The exact order in which data elements are evaluated, and the relative importance of data
elements, will not be the same for all users.
This standard is intended to support the collection and processing of geospatial metadata. It is intended to
be useable by all levels of government and the private sector. The standard is not
intended to reflect an
implementation design. An implementation design requires adapting the structure and form of the standard
to meet application requirements.
The standard was developed from the perspective of defining the information required by a prospective
user to determine the availability of a set of geospatial data; to determine the fitness and the set of
geospatial data for an intended use; to determine the means of accessing the set of geospatial data; and to
successfully transfer the set of geospatial data. As such, the standard establishes the names of data
elements and compound elements to be used for these purposes, definitions of these data elements and
compound elements, and information about the values that are to be provided for the data elements. The
standard does not specify the means by which this information is organized in a computer system or in a
data transfer, nor the means by which this information is transmitted, communicated, or presented to the
This standard is for the documentation of geospatial data. Executive Order 12906, "Coordinating
Geographic Data Acquisition and Access: The National Spatial Data Infrastructure," was signed on April
11, 1994, by President William J. Clinton. Section 3, Development of a National Geospatial Data
Clearinghouse, paragraph (b) states: "Standardized Documentation of Data. Beginning nine months from
the date of this order, each agency shall document all new geospatial data it collects or produces, either
directly or indirectly, using the standard under development by the FGDC, and make that standardized
documentation electronically accessible to the Clearinghouse network. Within one year of the date of this
order, agencies shall adopt a schedule, developed in consultation with the FGDC, for documenting, to the
extent practicable, geospatial data previously collected or produced, either directly or indirectly, and
making that data documentation electronically accessible to the Clearinghouse network." This standard is
the data documentation standard referenced in the executive order.
The FGDC invites and encourages organizations and persons from State, local, and tribal governments, the
private sector, and non-profit organizations to use the standard to document their geospatial data. A major
difficulty in the geospatial data community is the lack of information that helps prospective users to
determine what data exist, the fitness of existing data for planned applications, and the conditions for
accessing existing data, and to transfer data to a user's system. This standard, developed with aid of broad
public participation, will help to ease these problems and to develop the National Spatial Data
4. Related Standards
The Spatial Data Transfer Standard (SDTS) was developed to allow the transfer of digital spatial data sets
between spatial data software. The Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata was developed to
identify and define the metadata elements used to document digital geospatial data sets for many purposes.
These include metadata to: 1) preserve the meaning and value of a data set; 2) contribute to a catalog or
clearinghouse and; 3) aid in data transfer. Since the SDTS is a standard for data transfer, its primary
metadata content is used to determine the fitness of the data set for the user's purpose. There is a close
relationship between the Metadata Standard and the SDTS metadata elements contained in the Data Quality
module, and in other locations inside of the SDTS transfer set. Since the Metadata Standard contains
metadata used to search for digital spatial data sets through a clearinghouse (metadata for locating,
describing access, use, and distribution), these elements may not be contained in the SDTS transfer set.
The Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata uses to the maximum extent possible, existing
International or National Standards, as documented in Office of Management and Budget Circular A-119
"Federal Participation in the Development and Use of Voluntary Consensus Standards and in Conformity
assessment Activities." American National Standards referenced in the Content Standard for Digital
Geospatial Metadata include the American National Standards Institute, 1975, Representations of universal
time, local time differentials, and United States time zone reference for information interchange (ANSI
X3.51-1975): New York, American National Standards Institute; American National Standards Institute,
1986, Representation for calendar date and ordinal date for information interchange (ANSI X3.30-1985):
New York, American National Standards Institute; American National Standards Institute, 1986,
Representations of local time of day for information interchange (ANSI X3.43-1986): New York,
American National Standards Institute.
The June 8, 1994 FGDC Metadata Standard was used as the base document for International Organization
for Standardization (ISO) 15046 Part 15. The draft ISO Metadata Standard 15046 Part 15 has had a
number of changes made to it. At this time this revision was prepared, the ISO Metadata Standard was still
in Committee Draft form and subject to significant change before final approval, therefore, is not identical
to the current ISO draft but is thought to be consistent with it.
5. Standards Development Process
The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) initiated work on the first version of the standard in
June, 1992, through a forum on geospatial metadata. At the forum, the participants agreed on the need for
a standard on the information content of metadata about geospatial data. The committee accepted the offer
of ASTM Section D18.01.05 to develop a draft information content standard. The draft was slightly
revised, and offered for public review from October 1992 to April 1993. Extensive comments were
received from the public. The FGDC Standards Working Group revised the draft. The revised draft was
provided for further review and testing in July 1993. Refined drafts were offered for review and testing in
January and March 1994. The first version was approved June 8, 1994.
Since the FGDC Metadata Standard was adopted, it has been implemented by numerous
Federal, state, and
local agencies, companies, and groups. It has also been used by other nations as they develop their own
national metadata standards. Proposed changes to the Metadata Standard have been suggested during the
time since it was issued. Further, an implementor's workshop was held specifically to discuss strengths,
weaknesses, and proposed improvements. Drawing on this body of knowledge, the FGDC proposed to
modify the current Metadata Standard.
The June 1998 version is fully backward compatible with and supersedes the June 8, 1994 version. The
June 1998 version provides for the definition of Profiles (Appendix E) and extensibility through User
Defined Metadata Extensions (Appendix D). The June 1998 version also modifies some production rules
to ease implementation.
6. Maintenance Authority. The current maintenance authority for the standard is the FGDC Secretariat.
The Federal Geographic Data Committee is the approving authority for the standard. Questions concerning
the standard are to be addressed to the FGDC Secretariat, in care of the U.S. Geological Survey, 590
National Center, Reston, Virginia 20192. Copies of this publication are available from the Federal
Geographic Data Committee. Secretariat, in care of the U.S. Geological Survey, 590 National Center,
Reston, Virginia 20192; telephone (703) 648-5514; facsimile (703) 648-5755; Internet (electronic mail)
email@example.com. The text also is available from anonymous File Transfer Protocol (anonymous ftp) server
fgdc.er.usgs.gov and at the FGDC web site http://www.fgdc.gov/metadata.