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Procedures to Develop and Register Data Elements in Support of Data Standardization. September 2000. Based on: ISO/IEC Draft Technical Report 20943, Information Technology –Procedures for Achieving Metadata Registry (MDR) Content Consistency – Data Elements. Metadata Registry.

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Procedures to Develop and Register Data Elements in Support of Data Standardization

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Procedures to Develop and Register Data Elements in Support ofData Standardization

September 2000

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Based on:

ISO/IEC Draft Technical Report 20943,

Information Technology –Procedures for Achieving Metadata Registry (MDR) Content Consistency – Data Elements

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Metadata Registry

EPA’s metadata registry is the Environmental Data Registry (EDR):

The EDR is based onan international standardfor metadata registries.

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International Standard for Metadata Registries

ISO/IEC 11179:

Information Technology -Data Management and Interchange - Metadata Registries (MDR)

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Parts of the Standard

  • Part 1: Framework for the Specification and Standardization of Data Elements

  • Part 2: Classification for Data Elements

  • Part 3:Registry Metamodel (MDR3)

  • Part 4: Rules and Guidelines for the Formulation of Data Definitions

  • Part 5: Naming and Identification Principles for Data Elements

  • Part 6: Registration of Data Elements

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Data Element Registration

  • Characteristics of the data element are recorded as metadata attributes

  • Registration depends on the amount and quality of information available

  • Data elements might range from:

    • Standard data elements–complete, with good quality

    • Application data elements–incomplete with questionable quality

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Steps to Follow When Registering a Data Element


  • Understanding the data element

  • Content research

  • Definition and permissible values

  • Names and identifiers

  • Administrative and miscellaneous attributes

  • Data element concepts

  • Classification schemes

  • Quality control








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Example of Registration

Registration of a data element for the code used by the United States Postal Service (USPS) to represent a state or state equivalent.


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Understanding the Data Element

Step 1

What kind of data will be stored in this data element?

Are the data values determined by an arithmetic or statistical procedure?

Is there a definition or description of data values?

What will the data values look like–names,descriptions, numerals to be calculated, character strings, or identifiers?

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Understanding the Data Element - Example

The USPS standard format for preparing a domestic mail piece requires that the last line of the address contain city name, state code, and ZIP code.

The data element to be registered must represent the list of data values for state code that are acceptable to the USPS for mail delivery.


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Content Research

Step 2

Is this data element described in an existing standard?

Does the data element exist in this registry or a federation of registries, that has the potential for being used?

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Content Research - Example

National Standards:

  • FIPS PUB 5-2, 6-4, 55-3

    • Contain 2-letter state codes

    • Include a code for U.S. Minor Outlying Islands – not recognized by the USPS

    • U.S. does not intend to continue maintaining FIPS codes

  • National Supercomputer Centers Usage Database

    • Contains only 4 of the 8 outlying territories

    • Omits all 4 freely associated states


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Content Research - Example


National Standards :

  • U.S. Postal Service standards

    • Include codes for all states, outlying territories, and freely associated states of the United States

    • Do not recognize a code for U.S. Minor Outlying Islands, which must be identified on mail pieces by name

    • Include codes for military “States”

International Standards:

  • ISO 3166-Part 2, Country subdivision code

    • Identifies U.S. outlying territories and freely associated states as Countries in Part 1


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Content Research - Example


Existing Data Elements in the EDR:

  • State USPS Code

  • Mailing Address State Code

  • Geographic Address State Code

All of the Above Include:

  • The code for U.S. Minor Outlying Islands–not acceptable for mail delivery

  • Codes for the 12 Canadian provinces


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Decision - Preferred Data Source

The preferred data source for a standard data element for state code for mail delivery within the U.S. for states and state equivalents is the USPS standard, available at:


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Definition and Permissible Values

Step 3

A definition must capture the essential semantic content of a data element.

Definitions are recorded in context (where did the definition originate or how is it applied?).

Permissible values are the domains of acceptable values for the data element:

Enumerated by a specific list of values?

Defined by a description, procedure, or range?

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Permissible Values –Value Domain

Step 3

  • How are values represented (e.g., name, code, text, date)?

  • When did each value become valid/invalid?

  • What are the name and definition/description of the value domain?

  • How many characters are required in the database to store the value?

  • Is the data value recorded as a character string, numerals, integer, or other?

  • Are the data values formatted?

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Definition - Example

The code that represents a United States state or state equivalent in a mailing address.

Context: USPS Standard


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Permissible Values - Example

  • Representation: Code

  • Value Domain Name: The state codes for states and state equivalents of the United States

  • Definition: All codes recognized by the U.S. Postal Service on a mail piece for identification of a state or state equivalent of the United States

  • Field length: 2

  • Datatype: alphabetic

  • Format: character string

  • List of values: 62 values representing the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the 8 outlying territoriesand freely associated states, and the 3 codesfor military states


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Names and Identifiers

Step 4

A name is a term or phrase that describes the data element–something to call it.

Names are recorded in context (where did the name originate or how is it applied?).

Identifiers are unique. They identify the Registration Authority, the organization, the data element, and the version of the data element if information about the data element changes.

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Names and Identifiers - Example

  • Name: State or State Equivalent Code

  • Context: USPS Standard

  • Identifier:

    • Registration Authority:EPA

    • Organization:OEI

    • Sub-organization:OIC

    • Data Element ID:29324

    • Version: 1


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Administrative and Miscellaneous Attributes

Step 5

  • Submitting organization–the organization that has submitted the data element for registration

  • Stewardship contact–the organization delegated the responsibility for maintaining the data element

  • Data element comment–provides remarks about usage, procedure, and other explanatory information that is not appropriate to include in the definition

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Administrative and Miscellaneous Attributes

Step 5


  • Data element example–an example of a value that is permissible for the data element

  • Data element origin–source of information about the data element, including document, standard, system, group, form, or message set

  • Creation/last change date–the system date when a data element was created or updated in the registry

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Administrative & Miscellaneous Attributes - Example

  • Submitting organization–Office of Environmental Information

  • Stewardship contact–Data Standards Branch

  • Data element comment–this data element is used to identify states and state equivalents for all United States mailing addresses, including military addresses

  • Data element example–NJ (New Jersey)

  • Data element origin–EPA data standard workgroup

  • Creation/last change date–system date


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Data Element Concept

Step 6

  • Provides conceptual information

  • May relate data elements that convey the same concept with different representations

  • Singular–refers to only one concept

  • Must have a name and definition, recorded in context

  • Specified through a conceptual domain,i.e., the set of possible valid values for a data element concept, expressed without representation

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Data Element Concept - Example

  • Name: U.S. State or State Equivalent

  • Definition: An identifier for a primary political subdivision of the United States, including an outlying territory or an associated state

  • Data elements that might share this data concept include:

    • United States State Name–New Jersey

    • State Common Name–Garden State

    • Facility Location State Abbreviation–NJ

  • This data element concept uses a subset of the values in the conceptual domain:

    • Primary Geopolitical Subdivisions of Countries


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Conceptual Domain - Example

  • Name: Primary Geopolitical Subdivisions of Countries

  • Definition: Identifiers for the primary geopolitical subdivisions of the countries of the world

  • Value meanings might include:

    • The U.S. state of Alabama

    • The Canadian province of Alberta

    • The Malaysian state of Sabah

    • The U.S. state equivalent of District of Columbia


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Classification Schemes

Step 7

Data elements might be classified according to any of the following types of groups where the data element might be listed:

  • Usage

  • Data standard

  • Application system

  • Data collection form

  • Keywords

  • Object class

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Classification Schemes - Example

  • Mailing address group

  • U.S. Postal Service Address Standard

  • Form R for Toxic Release Inventory

  • Keywords: State, Geopolitical


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Quality Control

Step 8

  • Registration status–records the position in the registration life cycle of the data element, that indicates the stage of quality review for a data element

    • Incomplete–all metadata are not entered

    • Recorded–all metadata are entered

    • Certified–metadata are valid

    • Standard–the preferred data element for Agency use

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Quality Control - Example



Quality Assurance

All data have been entered:Recorded

Data are certified to be accurate:Certified

After becoming Agency standard:Standard


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