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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= y accepted.
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.