Metadata for economics and social sciences

It isn't easy to make the right interpretation of a dataset without knowing the circumstances in which it is created.  A description of the exact context, research methods and means, the so called metadata, are essential for reproduction and value of the results of a research project.

Data Management Plan (DMP)

A DMP isn't just a document you write before you start the research process but it's also a 'living document' which can be updated when necessary.  This way you create an outline of everything that happende with your data during the whole process.

When you upload your publication in the academic bibliography (biblio) you can add the DMP as supplementary material.


A README.txt is a simple way to collect metadata about your project and your data when no suitable standard is available.

  • General template
  • Specifically for economics:
  • Specifically for economics: the general template (appendice C) and the template specifically for economics (appendice E) from the paper "Exploring disciplinary metadata and documentation practices to strengthen data archiving services" (E. Rolando, L. Li, A. Doshi, K. Young)
A README answers the question: "Which information is necessary make a correct interpretation of the data and/or reproduce the results of your research?"  You can answer this question as extensively as necessary.

Research by 4TU.ResearchData and TU Delfthas shown that researchers in the social sciences almost never add a structured metadata schema but they create a lot of free-text documents, a systems that seems to work within this domain.

Metadata schema standards for economics and social sciences

Data Documentation Initiative (DDI)

Data Documentation Initiative (DDI) is an international standard for describing the data produced by surveys and other observational methods in the social, behavioral, economic, and health sciences.

It generates interactive codebooks, creates concordance mappings, implements data catalogs, harmonizes and compares data, builds question banks, manages longitudinal datasets, etc.  It also provides clear information on the DDI-specifications and DDI-tools.

SDMX - Statistical Data and Metadata Exchange

Statistical Data and Metadata Exchange (SDMX) is an international initiative that aims at standardising and modernising (“industrialising”) the mechanisms and processes for the exchange of statistical data and metadata among international organisations and their member countries.

SDMX is sponsored by seven international organisations including the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the European Central Bank (ECB), Eurostat (Statistical Office of the European Union), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Statistical Division (UNSD), and the World Bank.

Dublin Core Metadata Initiative

A widely used standard for metadata is created by the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative.This standard is very generic and doesn't allow more domain specific metadata.

Other standards and tools

On the website of the Digital Curation Centre (UK) you can find more standards and tools, including for the social sciences.

Data Storage Fact Sheet (DSFS)

A Data Storage Fact Sheet (DSFS) is a document containing information about raw, processed and meta data collected and stored during a study. The DSFS also should contain a clear reference to whom should be contacted if information is wanted about the data. Furthermore, the DSFS also serves as a checklist for researchers with regard to the data maintenance. A data storage fact sheet is specifically connected to one study and is written after the study is finished.  You can add the DSFS with your publication in Biblio. (Info: UGent-PP)

Publication or paper

When a paper includes a well-written, clear methodology it can also serve as documentation for the study and the data.