Subject: Exported From Confluence
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8
- It is not a new discovery that the subject of statistical metadata is a=
n extremely complex one. Even now, almost three and a half decades after Bo=
Sundgren first used the term, different individuals may still mean quite d=
ifferent things or place emphasis on different aspects when speaking of met=
adata. This phenomenon is even more pronounced when these persons stem from=
different areas of expertise: senior management, subject matter statistici=
ans, methods specialists, IT experts etc.
- Papers prepared for the METIS work sessions and the Common Metadata Fra=
mework (especially the case studies) have proven very useful, as they provi=
de arguments for discussions with statisticians and top management. =
- The creation of an integrated system consisting of more than isolated s=
olutions is difficult when there is no organizational unit the main respons=
ibility of which is to deal with the subject of metadata and its usefulness=
for the NSI - and which is also granted the requisite authority and enjoys=
the support of top management, so that it can achieve the introduction of =
integrated and centralized metadata systems even against the possible resis=
tance of subject matter departments.
- That metadata projects are best carried out using an interdisciplinary =
approach (and not as IT projects) has long been recognized in expert circle=
s. In practice, however, it appears that the qualified subject matter stati=
sticians continually suffer from such a heavy workload that they have no ti=
me to spare for complicated conceptual work (e.g., Statistics Austria has r=
educed the number of personnel by about a third since its separation from t=
he federal civil service in the year 2000).
- Many statisticians associate the concept of "metadata" with t=
he notion of "additional work" (which for instance actually was t=
he case when the standard documentations were introduced). This leads them =
to resist new metadata systems.
- The idea of developing specialized tools for editing, administrating an=
d (re-)using metadata with an end-to-end approach regarding the statistical=
life cycle often encounters resistance among statisticians because the int=
roduction of such tools will result in changes to work processes which they=
have been familiar with for many years.
Statistics, however, is not the only field of activity in which the crea=
tion and usage of metadata can be seen as part of the job description. In o=
rder to produce software of high quality and in an economic way, the availa=
bility of tools - to support the management of "software metadata"=
; (including the source code of the programs) and to provide services to al=
leviate the software engineers' work - has long been recognized as necessar=
y. Especially when several programmers are cooperating in a software projec=
t, the storage and administration of all information items in a central rep=
ository seems indispensable.
The production of statistics exhibits a high degree of similarity to the=
production of software. However, in statistics the advantages offered by s=
pecialized tools and a centralized metadata repository are not yet generall=
- As was already said in section 2.3, with regard to the development of s=
ystems for the collection and administration of passive metadata, the cost =
factor presents a particular obstacle. Passive metadata are an integral com=
ponent of statistical information. Their availability and easy accessibilit=
y contribute to the quality of statistical products, but in many cases do n=
ot result in cost reductions (they may even increase the work load of subje=
ct matter statisticians). Opportunity costs caused by the non-existence of =
centralized end-to-end metadata systems are rarely found in accounting syst=
ems. Thus high investments are accompanied "only" by a gradual ga=
in in quality (which may not even be recognized by all user groups). Under =
these circumstances it is understandable that in times of economic crisis t=
he willingness to invest in metadata projects is not high.
The concept of "high-quality statistics" is a dynamic one. The=
needs and requirements of users are changing and will probably increase in=
the future, e.g. with regard to harmonization of statistics or the linkage=
of data with relevantmetadata items (respectively linkage of=
metadata items with related metadata items), so that they can be accessed =
at the push of a button. If metadata are stored in the continuous text of b=
ulky documents, these new requirements cannot be met. The management of met=
adata in an "atomic" and structured form, however, is a challenge=
with respect to both financial resources and personnel.
The fundamental principles of metadata management, which have been defin=
ed by experts during recent years (and which can be found, for example, in =
part A of the Common Metadata Framework) will become more and more commonly=
accepted standards and state of the art for the production and disseminati=
on of statistical information.
The task of implementing these standards can certainly not be carried ou=
t at short notice. In this respect, it is not easy to answer the question w=
hether to continue building isolated metadata systems whenever the need for=
one specific system arises, or whether to strive for an integrated system =
based on a global architecture. The first approach is certainly less expens=
ive in the short run and produces quicker results, but in the long term it =
will cause quite substantial "repair" costs.
What metadata should actually be collected for and provided to external =
and internal users, and in what form should they be provided? This is a fun=
damental question on which opinions within Statistics Austria are divided. =
The search for an answer should not be postponed just because it is clear f=
rom the start that up-to-date solutions will require high investments in ti=
me and money. The answer should rather be given as soon as possible in orde=
r to ensure from the start that the solutions - which must be planned and i=
mplemented step-by-step in accordance with budgetary constraints and on a l=
ong-term time scale - will be built to last.