The goal of dataspice is to make it easier for researchers to create basic, lightweight and concise metadata files for their datasets. These basic files can then be used to:

  • make useful information available during analysis.
  • create a helpful dataset README webpage.
  • produce more complex metadata formats to aid dataset discovery.

Metadata fields are based on and other metadata standards.


A fully worked example can be found here and a live preview of the output here. An example of how Google sees this can be found here.


You can install the development version from GitHub with:



Create spice

  • create_spice() creates template metadata spreadsheets in a folder (by default created in the data folder)

The template files are:

  • attributes.csv - explains each of the variables in the dataset
  • biblio.csv - for spatial and temporal coverage, dataset name, keywords, etc.
  • access.csv - for files and file types
  • creators.csv - for data authors

Fill in templates

The user needs to fill in the details of the 4 template files. These csv files can be directly modified, or they can be edited using some helper functions and/or a shiny app.

Helper functions

  • prep_attributes() populates the fileName and variableName columns of the attributes.csv file using the header row of the data files.

  • prep_access() populates the fileName, name and fileFormat columns of the access.csv file from the files in the folder containing the data.

To see an example of how prep_attributes() works, load the data files that ship with the package:

This function assumes that the metadata templates are in a folder called metadata within a data folder.

Using purrr::map(), this function can be applied over multiple files to populate the header names

The output of prep_attributes() has the first two columns filled out:

fileName variableName description unitText
BroodTables.csv Stock.ID NA NA
BroodTables.csv Species NA NA
BroodTables.csv Stock NA NA
BroodTables.csv Ocean.Region NA NA
BroodTables.csv Region NA NA
BroodTables.csv Sub.Region NA NA

editable shiny apps

Each of the metadata templates can be edited interactively using a shiny app

  • edit_attributes() opens a shiny app that can be used to edit attributes.csv. The shiny app displays the current attributes table and lets the user fill in an informative description and units (e.g. meters, hectares, etc.) for each variable.
  • edit_access(): opens an editable version of access.csv
  • edit_creators(): opens an editable version of creators.csv
  • edit_biblio(): opens an editable version of biblio.csv

edit_attributes shiny app

Remember to click on Save when finished editing.

completed metadata files

The first few rows of the completed metadata tables in this example will look like this:

access.csv has one row for each file

fileName name contentUrl fileFormat
StockInfo.csv StockInfo.csv NA CSV
BroodTables.csv BroodTables.csv NA CSV
SourceInfo.csv SourceInfo.csv NA CSV

attributes.csv has one row for each variable in each file

fileName variableName description unitText
BroodTables.csv Stock.ID Unique stock identifier NA
BroodTables.csv Species species of stock NA
BroodTables.csv Stock Stock name, generally river where stock is found NA
BroodTables.csv Ocean.Region Ocean region NA
BroodTables.csv Region Region of stock NA
BroodTables.csv Sub.Region Sub.Region of stock NA

biblio.csv is one row containing descriptors including spatial and temporal coverage

title description datePublished citation keywords license funder geographicDescription northBoundCoord eastBoundCoord southBoundCoord westBoundCoord wktString startDate endDate
Compiled annual statewide Alaskan salmon escapement counts, 1921-2017 The number of mature salmon migrating from the marine environment to freshwater streams is defined as escapement. Escapement data are the enumeration of these migrating fish as they pass upstream, … 2018-02-12 08:00:00 NA salmon, alaska, escapement NA NA NA 78 -131 47 -171 NA 1921-01-01 08:00:00 2017-01-01 08:00:00

creators.csv has one row for each of the dataset authors

id givenName familyName affiliation email
NA Jeanette Clark National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis
NA Rich Brenner Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Save json-ld file

Here’s a view of the dataspice.json file of the example data:

Build website

  • build_site() generates an index.html file in the repository docs folder, to create a website that shows a simple view of the dataset with the metadata and an interactive map. For example, this repository results in this website



A few existing tools & data standards to help users in specific domains:

…And others indexed in & the RDA metadata directory.


This package was developed at rOpenSci’s 2018 unconf by (in alphabetical order):