The one-covers-all approach in current metadata standards for scientific data has serious limitations in keeping up with the ever-growing data. This paper reports the findings from a survey to metadata standards in the scientific data domain and argues for the need for a metadata infrastructure. The survey collected 4400+ unique elements from 16 standards and categorized these elements into 9 categories. Findings from the data included that the highest counts of element occurred in the descriptive category and many of them overlapped with DC elements. This pattern also repeated in the elements co-occurred in different standards. A small number of semantically general elements appeared across the largest numbers of standards while the rest of the element co-occurrences formed a long tail with a wide range of specific semantics. The paper discussed implications of the findings in the context of metadata portability and infrastructure and pointed out that large, complex standards and widely varied naming practices are the major hurdles for
building a metadata infrastructure.
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