All IOOS data providers are expected to ensure relevant metadata is produced, accessible and compliant with IOOS conventions, and to participate as appropriate in the development of such conventions. Descriptive information about datasets, sensors, platforms, models, analysis methods, quality-control procedures is essential for the long-term usability and reuse of information.


IOOS data providers must adhere to the following data format standards and/or provide metadata according to the following guidelines:

File Formats:

  • netCDF: for multi-dimensional, self-describing, array-oriented scientific data (typically for in situ observations and model outputs)
  • GeoTIFF: for georeferenced imagery or remotely-sensed products 


  • netCDF-CF, ACDD, and the IOOS Metadata Profile for dataset-level metadata and dataset structure
  • ISO 19115-2 for ancillary dataset and collection-level metadata for Catalog indexing
  • Darwin Core for biological data, or other community standards as agreed upon by the IOOS BioData Working Group

In general, IOOS partners should follow the guidelines in the NOAA Data Documentation Procedural Directive to properly describe and document their datasets.

Datasets should be compatible with and should be formatted according to the file format  and metadata requirements listed above, including proper attribution for discoverability and proper structure for interoperability. In particular, use of the netCDF-CF, ACDD, and IOOS Metadata Profile standards are required for netCDF files, as are Darwin Core or other biological data standards for biology data.

Additionally, for all datasets and associated Data Access Services, IOOS data providers are expected to create and maintain up-to-date ISO 19115-2 XML metadata records that can be harvested by the IOOS Catalog. The process and requirements for this are described on the Catalog Registration page.

Standards, Formats and Protocols

  • OGC netCDF: OGC network Common Data Form, or ‘netCDF classic’ data model for multi-dimensional, array-oriented scientific data
  • OGC GeoTIFF: public-domain metadata standard that allows georeferencing information to be embedded within a Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) file
  • netCDF-CF: Climate and Forecast conventions for netCDF
  • ACDD 1.3: Attribute Conventions for Data Discovery
  • IOOS Metadata Profile: IOOS metadata conventions for multi-dimensional data (e.g. netCDF)
  • ISO 19115-2 XML Metadata: for dataset and collection-level metadata
  • Darwin Core: for biological data

Implementation Methods/Practices

Available Software:

IOOS Compliance Checker

The IOOS Compliance Checker is a command line Python tool to check local/remote datasets against a variety of compliance standards, including community standards such as netCDF-CF, ACDD, and the IOOS Metadata Profile. For non-python users, there is also a Compliance Checker website where files can be individually run through the checker.


Additional background on NOAA metadata practices and procedures, which are endorsed by IOOS is available at the NCEI Metadata site and wiki page.