Metadata management is a communication challenge. We found two issues were particularly difficult to communicate:
Metadata management is tricky. Statistical data is inherently volatile. For any given data, an endless number of transformations are possible producing an endless amount of metadata. With the distribution of modern IT-systems there is hardly any limit to producing endless variations of the same dataset.
Metadata can be more than just documentation. The same information that is used to transform (produce) data can be used to document it and vice versa.
As we are faced with multiple stakeholders, several isolated decisions taken by governing committees and a variety of IT-systems in place, it would probably be useful to develop a metadata strategy. Such a strategy might help the organisation to focus on important projects and provide a coordinated approach ensuring that systems are able to interact. Distributing the energy of an organisation across too many unrelated tasks easily drains away resources without delivering satisfactory results. Drafting such a strategy, however, also consumes resources and requires a deeper understanding of the problems.
The advantages and disadvantages of a metadata model can often only be properly evaluated once an IT-system is in place. It is therefore important to learn from evaluations of existing systems.
Considerable effort went into formulating metadata models. Having evaluated some of them, we feel that the existing models do bear some similarities. A perfect model may not exist, especially since the resulting implementation usually involves some compromise. No database can be endlessly complex. But on a more conceptual level there seems to be some convergence. Indeed there might even be a structure inherent to the metadata of (official) statistics. Thus, the quest for the "real" metadata model might be less a matter of design than of discovery.
In a federal system, national coordination usually requires a lot of resources from all partners in the system. Understandably, international cooperation is then often seen as being of lesser importance. Despite this, international cooperation has substantially helped the metadata team at Destatis to understand the subject of metadata management. The development of IT-systems consumes a lot of resources. We feel it helps to build on existing international knowledge and that it minimises risks and maximises return on investment.