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Lessons learned

  1. Top management support is essential.
  2. Make a metadata strategy. It is important that we can refer to formal documents like the metadata- and IT-strategy (which has been approved by the board of directors) in our metadata work. In the same way it is useful that the list of key metadata terms promoted for use within the statistical office has an official "stamp".
  3. Use step-wise development of metadata systems with active user involvement and regular delivery of functionality.
  4. Ensure continuous follow-up of progress and quality with direct feedback to users and regular reports to middle and top management. One of the biggest challenges in management of metadata is allocating the necessary resources. Releasing good quality statistics within the planned time schedule is the primary task for the subject matter divisions and documentation will often have a lower priority. It is therefore crucial that the management stresses the importance of documentation and increases the status for this kind of work.
  5. Harmonising variables between subject matter divisions is also a considerable challenge and an important tool to improve the quality of metadata. Several subject matter divisions may use the same variable names, but define them differently. In some cases this is necessary because of laws and regulations, but this is not always the case. We have meetings where contact persons from divisions using variables with similar names come together and discuss the definitions, e.g. if a division could change the wording of their definition to such an extent that other divisions might use it as well, which would allow us to reduce the number of definitions to one in stead of e.g. three. This is a time consuming work which we have started, but which will require a lot more of resources, both to monitor where harmonisation is needed and to do the job.
  6. The possibility to release metadata on the Internet makes it easier to motivate subject matter divisions to document metadata and improve metadata quality.
  7. We think that to really make metadata work a natural part of everyday life in the subject matter divisions, we have to include the metadata systems in the production cycle. Then we can establish routines where the handling of metadata is included in all relevant production steps. So far the metadata work in Statistics Norway has been focused on implementing metadata systems and filling them with relevant documentation. This year we will start investigating the role of metadata(systems) in the production cycle.