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Arctic LTER’s Metadata form

Mtadata is entered by a form based on an Excel worksheet. The from was designed to be easily filled out by researchers with the required information for meeting the LTER Network Information System (NIS) requirements. A script can then generate an xml file that is "PASTA" ready. For more information on the new “PASTA” system at the LTER Network see NIS Data Portal.

Recently we improved the form by adding a "sites" sheet that has the common Arctic LTER site names and locations. This will aid in having uniform site descriptions in our metadata.

The Worksheet for Entering Metadata

The worksheet for entering metadata
(click on image for larger version)

The design of this worksheet (MetadataBlank.xls) is based on the Arctic LTER’s old metadata entry form which was developed in 1989 and on EML Best Practices. Comments are used extensively throughout the sheet to aid in filling out the data. Text boxes are used for sections with more then 256 characters since moving or copying an Excel worksheet truncates the text in cells to 256 characters. Data validation lists are used to created drop down lists for units, variable types. The Excel file does not require any macros for entering information thsu advoiding any security issues.

At this time the methods section includes only one text box where all the information about methods are entered. It was decided to be simple and not split out instrumentation, sampling, etc. In a future version we may decide to split out the information.

The variable description (dataTable/entityGroup) section includes columns for attribute name, description, data type, units, data code informatin and missing values. The use of data validation lists for units, data type eases filling in the required values. Not all the EML units are included in the list on the metadata worksheet – only metric ones. Researchers are allowed to enter their own units if none are found on the list. When the file is processed by the IM the units will be checked and flagged if they do not conform to EML standards. The IM will then decide if a custom unit needs to be defined.

Validating and uploading to the Arctic LTER and LTER Network Information Systems.

Once the research sends the metadata and data to Arctic Information Manager a script (VBA) is used to test for common errors and mssing information. Some errors can be corrected by the script, e.g a lookup table is used to translate comonly used units into the accepted EML format. Once completed anothe script is used to generate an eml file, a data file and to update xml harvest list. This harvest list is used by the LTER Network harvester to upload the metadata file to LNO Metacat database. Currently the Arctic IM has to manually harvest the file for the newer LTER Network Data Portal.


Future work

The Arctic LTER is moving to the Drupal Environmental Information Management System (DEIMS). This multiple site LTER effort is aimed at using the Drupal Content Management System to deploy a data model based on Ecological Metadata Language (EML) and to develop a common set of tools for use at LTER sites. This implementation will allow us to meet and exceed the new LTER Executive Board expectations for data accessibility, specifically concerns about core and non-core data sets. It will For more information see the 2009 LTER ASM workgroup “No dead end information” website,, currently we have a beta site at


We are also involved with the LTER Sensor NIS effort and plan on deploying a work flow management system for near real-time data streams.

Please contact with questions, comments, or for technical assistance regarding this web site.