Forum Guide to Metadata
NFES 2009-805
July 2009

Common data management metadata items

Common name Description
Element name The unique word or set of words that identifies the name of a metadata item (see appendix A).
Definition A description of the meaning of a data element.
Purpose/mandate The reason a data item is collected (e.g., state law, school board requirement, component of a report card indicator formula).
Restrictions Any factors that limit the value, use, or interpretation of a data element. For example, data about a student's health conditions are often considered to be confidential and require appropriate access precautions.
Related data
Other data elements (or indicators) commonly used with the data element to enhance understanding or provide additional information. For example, all components needed to calculate a data element are included as related elements.
Calculations/formulas The actual mathematical formula for computing a value.
Manipulation rules A detailed description of the methods, techniques, and procedures for editing, deriving, calculating, translating, or otherwise manipulating a piece of data.
Ownership/stewardship The individual or office that authorizes collection of the data and maintains responsibility for the attributes of a data element. Only this individual or office has the authority to change an attribute for that element and all subsequent use of that element should reflect authorized modifications.
Effective dates The date a data element is introduced or modified, and the date its use ends in favor of a modification or retirement. All past start/end dates are retained as a part of a data element history.
Retention period The amount of time a piece of data should be retained in active or archived form. A "disposal date" may be appropriate for data that will be destroyed.
Business rule A rule under which an organization operates, and the expression of that rule as a mathematical or logical assertion governing how data can be entered or used within a data system. For example, a business rule in an education data system may say that values for the data element Age of Student must fall within the range of 5 through 21 (i.e., 5 ≤ Age of Student ≤ 21) if the agency serves only students who are between 5 and 21 years old.
Security/confidentiality The classification for a piece of data that conveys the level of access and security to be applied to that data. In addition to the use of standard passwords, encryption techniques, and user authentication methods, security requirements sometimes specify the appropriate disposal of data. For example, a list of staff social security numbers may not simply be thrown in a trashcan or deleted from electronic disk storage but, instead, might require shredding of paper files or random binary overwriting for electronic files.