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Citing Keywords


Controlled keyword vocabularies ensure that metadata is described in a consistent manner and allow for the precise searching of metadata records and subsequent retrieval of data and services. There are seven sets of controlled keywords in the directory: Earth science, data services, data centers, locations, instrument/sensors, platforms/sources, and projects. In addition, the Climate Diagnostic descriptions include two unique keyword sets: visualization type and analysis type.


History of Keyword Changes

The GCMD Earth science keywords evolve as new metadata records are added and existing records are modified to meet the changing needs of the Earth science community.   These keywords were first offered to the public on April 24, 1995 as Version 1.0.0.   At that time, they were organized in a hierarchy constructed of TOPICs, TERMs, and VARIABLEs.   Changes at the TOPIC level (top level) required a change in the key version number.   TERM changes were indicated through the second digit, with VARIABLE level changes indicated using the third digit of the version number.   A TOPIC change was made in early 2003 when the new TOPIC, Climate Indicators, was added as Version 4.2.2.   A fourth change was made in July 2004 when the TOPIC name, Radiance/Imagery, was changed to Spectral/Engineering to more accurately describe the data sets behind the TOPIC.   The new version number thus  became "GCMD Keywords, Version 5.0.1".   A TERM addition was made in March 2005 when the  TERM, Paleoclimate Reconstructions, was added.  New TERMs were added in May 2005 (Sun-Earth Interactions) and in December 2005 (Climate Indicators).   New variables were added in 2006, bringing the version to "GCMD Keywords, Version 5.3.8".


In April 2007, the hierarchy was expanded to two additional levels.   A new TOPIC, Biological Classification, was added and inspired the extension of the science keyword taxonomy to five levels.   This added functionality arose from consultations with Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS, representatives and resulted in the implementation of the OBIS taxonomic categories.  The TERMs and VARIABLEs under Biological Classification were further extended based on the following authoritative taxonomic sources:  Integrated Taxonomic Information system (ITIS) [2007], Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) [2007], and Species 2000 [2007]   In addition, the Topic, Hydrosphere,  was clarified by adding the modifier, "terrestrial".  Thus, the first digit for the keyword set will be "6" (Topic level changes) and the number of digits was extended to five to include Topic, Term, Variable1, Variable2, Variable3, and Detailed Variables.   The "Detailed Variables" serve as a critical component of the keyword taxonomy, by providing a level to specify uncontrolled keywords that the author chooses to include in the hierarchy.


In October 2012, there was a major revision and expansion of the Human Dimensions and Climate Indicators keywords. Given that the hierarchy was expanded to two additional levels in 2007, these keyword changes offer additional detail and focus for the user when discovering related data sets and services.


Another major revision occurred in April 2013 to the Solid Earth and Atmosphere > Clouds keywords. More extensive changes to the Atmosphere keywords are planned in future keyword releases. This iteration should be cited at "GCMD Keywords, Version".

Keyword Governance

The GCMD science team maintains the keyword lists. The GCMD Science Keyword Rules and Procedures for Modification of the GCMD Keywords have been developed to ensure that the quality and mutually exclusive nature of the keywords are maintained. New versions of the keywords will be announced on this page. GCMD welcomes input from the science community on the keyword lists.


How to Cite Keywords

Please use the following citation when using the GCMD keywords:

Olsen, L.M., G. Major, K. Shein, J. Scialdone, S. Ritz, T. Stevens, M. Morahan, A. Aleman, R. Vogel, S. Leicester, H. Weir, M. Meaux, S. Grebas, C.Solomon, M. Holland, T. Northcutt, R. A. Restrepo, R. Bilodeau, 2013. NASA/Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Earth Science Keywords. Version


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