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Data Custodian Forum on Metadata. September 19 th , 2012. Metadata and You. Nancy McQuillen. Agenda. The “Top Problem” for 2012 : Clear Definitions Review Definitions : Data vs. Metadata vs. Master Data How can Metadata help? What types of metadata exist?

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metadata and you
Metadata and You

Nancy McQuillen

  • The “Top Problem” for 2012: Clear Definitions
  • Review Definitions: Datavs. Metadata vs. Master Data
  • How can Metadata help?
    • What types of metadata exist?
    • What questions can be answered with metadata?
  • Short-term goals:Clarifying essential UW business terms
    • Using TermPoint to submit and comment on Terms and Definitions
    • Requested Data Custodian inputs and assistance in 2012
  • Forum Terminology Exercise– Instructions
business question how many students attended uw last quarter
Business question: How many students attended UW last quarter?

Registered Students?

Enrolled Students?


Precision is required in questions, and in term definitions. For example:

Admitted Students?

An Enrolled Student is one who had at least one active course registration on or after the first day of the quarter. All courses can be dropped after the first day of the quarter and the student is still considered an Enrolled Student for the quarter.

Enrolled as of Census Day?

Fee-paying Students?

the problem term inal confusion
The Problem: “TERM-inal” Confusion

Enrolled Student

Home Department


Grant Runner

Full-time Student

Academic Year

Principle Investigator

Proposal type

Cost Share

Funder Type

Fee Based Major


Federal Salary Cap


Tenured Faculty

Encumbered Salary

Federal Expenditures


Carry Forward

Adjunct Faculty



Community-based Research

Faculty FTE

Indirect Costs

Space Utilization

Cooperative Agreement

elements of good definitions
Elements of Good Definitions

A good definition is:

  • Use words that have a clear, specific meaning. Avoid words that have multiple meanings.


  • The definition should differentiate a data element from other data elements. This process is called disambiguation.



  • Use the shortest description possible that is still clear.
  • Do not use the term you are trying to define in the definition itself. This is known as a circular definition.



Data, Metadata, and Master Data

Some short informal definitions:

Data – Recorded facts, observations, writings

Metadata – Additional descriptors of the data

Master data – Important shared data sets

library example
Library Example

Dewey Decimal


Card Catalog


  • Metadata attributes:
    • Author
    • Title
    • Subject

Master data

expresses the system used to classify the books.

Metadata describes, identifies, and classifies each book.

This is the data,

the “information assets”

defining metadata
Defining Metadata
  • The common short definition:

Data about Data

  • A more comprehensive definition:

Data, information, or knowledge

about information assets

  • The purpose of metadata is to “improve the usability of an information asset throughout its life cycle”. (Source: Gartner, 2011)
examples of information assets
Examples of Information Assets




(Text) Data

Models and


  • Process models
  • Data models
  • Web pages
  • Documents, Forms
  • Data sets
  • Reports
data vs metadata
Data vs. Metadata

This is metadata.

Expense Object Name

This is


Data without meaning and context are useless. Metadata provides meaning.

This is metadata

(drawn from a master list of “Expense Objects”).

metadata also describes master data
Metadata also describes Master Data
  • UW Master Data (examples):
    • People: Students, Employees
    • Finance Entities: Organizations, Budgets
  • Master data represents the most important “things” (usually nouns) of the enterprise. One definition is:
    • “Master data sets are synchronized copies of core business entities used in traditional or analytical applications across the organization, and subjected to enterprise governance policies, along with their associated metadata, attributes, definitions, roles, connections and taxonomies.”

(Source: David Loshin, Knowledge Integrity; retrieved from BeyeNetwork 9/15/2012)

termpoint home page
TermPoint Home Page

Login using your UW NetID in this format

terms entry
Terms Entry

Enter your terms directly here or send us an Excel spreadsheet (in TermPoint format)

data custodian targets for 2012
Data Custodian Targets for 2012
  • “Top 10” terms (submitted to TermPoint) –
    • with or without definitions, because we need your knowledge of what matterswithin your areas of expertise.
  • Technical contacts – in your area
    • Domain experts that know the data implementations (e.g. databases and file structures), and can assist in technical metadata submission for the important terms.
  • Input and advice on metadata strategy
    • Metadata work should follow key UW initiatives. We welcome general comments and ideas on metadata requirements and priorities, from your perspective.
metadata team targets for 2012
Metadata Team Targets for 2012
  • Assist in term harmonization and definition refinement; improve communications
    • Consolidate glossaries and submitted terms
    • Search for similar terms across domains and glossaries
    • Facilitate definition sessions to clarify terms
  • Document technical implementations
    • Consolidate technical metadata submitted by domain technical contacts
    • Facilitate search for appropriate data sources
  • Improve tooling and procedures for the two activities
    • Business glossary metadata management
    • Technical metadata management
t e r m inal madness terminology mixer exercise

T E R M-inal Madness (Terminology Mixer Exercise)

Instructions to Forum Participants

  • Talk about terms -- with colleagues from within and beyond your custodial domain; find others that share your area’s terms and related data.
  • Begin to identify important terms
    • Terms that must be clearly and consistently interpreted by many (departments, campus users, personnel in your department, etc.):
      • Terms used for analytic reporting, within or beyond UW
      • Terms that are important for UW process operations
  • Begin to prioritize terms for definitional work – within and beyond your business domain.

Step 1: Which terms are relevant to Italian cooking?






fine wine



pure olive oil


stir fry









mild herbs


Step 2: Which terms are most important?




mild herbs


fine wine

pure olive oil






steps in the exercise
Steps in the Exercise

Step 1. Sort terms as IN/OUT (5 min.)

Step 2. Prioritize your IN scope terms (10 min.)

  • Limit your team’s “High priority” terms to maximum of 5.
  • Optional: Add additional terms as you wish.

Step 3. Take a break, get coffee, think terms! (10 min.)

Step 4. Wrap-up discussion, (5 min.)

- with Hi/Med/Low score chart.