"A metadata record is an information file that captures the basic characteristics of a geographic data or information resource, and represents the who, what, when, where, why and how of the geodata resource." 1 Metadata allow producers to thoroughly describe datasets in order to help users understand their context and limitations and be able to assess their usefulness. Metadata are also used in catalogues, helping data discovery and repurposing to the benefit of users and the scientific community.
ISO 19115 2 is the international metadata standard. It includes hundreds of fields describing datasets characteristics. For a long time, the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) 3 standard was implemented by many organizations but FGDC has decided to follow the international trend and to facilitate the transition towards a common ISO standard.
A profile is a subset of a standard which combines relevant metadata fields for a specific context.
The North American Profil (NAP) is a Canadian standard developed to suit the needs of georeferenced data users and producers in Canada and in the US. "The goal of this Profile is to provide a mechanism for organizations producing geographic information to describe datasets in detail. The Profile helps users to better understand geographic metadata, the assumptions and limitations of geographic information, and facilitates the search for proper information to fit users' needs." 4
The The Marine Community Profile of ISO 19115 was developed by the Australian Ocean Data Centre Joint Facility (AODCJF) as a subset of the ISO 19115 standard. It defines additional components, codes and vocabulary to support marine data description. 5
Generally, profiles define elements (mandatory, conditional, optional) to be used to describe datasets including data type, topic, geographical & temporal boundaries, language, contact.