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Forum Guide to Metadata
NFES 2009-805
July 2009

Chapter 1. Chapter 1. What Are Metadata and Why Are They Important? - Who Benefits From Metadata?

Although anyone who handles data or uses data for decisionmaking will benefit from the implementation of a sound metadata system, several categories of users have the most to gain.

For policymaking and administrative staff, metadata will help:

  • improve data analysis and use by providing access to instructions and interpretation guidance;
  • reduce questions from the media and other data users by improving access to supporting information about data that are reported publicly;
  • improve the accessibility and presentation of data for informing instructional and administrative decisionmaking;
  • improve the likelihood that data about schools reflect what is really going on;
  • identify why individual data elements are collected (e.g., information about mandates and use); and
  • improve the understanding of connections between data and policymaking.

For technology staff, metadata will help:

  • provide a clear list of technical attributes (for example, field length) that can be applied without having to reconsider management parameters each time a new item is collected and stored;
  • improve the understanding of the business processes driving the collection and use of data that technical staff maintain;
  • identify sensitive and confidential data, thereby improving system security;
  • simplify and expedite data access and retrieval;
  • reduce user inquiries to technical staff through improved system navigation and data accessibility; and
  • simplify the exchange of data between systems, both within and outside the organization.

For program staff, metadata will help:

  • reduce the likelihood of incorrect or inconsistent reporting;
  • reduce collection demands by identifying redundant data elements;
  • minimize questions from technical staff about data maintenance instructions;
  • reduce questions from policymaking staff about data use instructions;
  • improve data comparability and continuity over time within a program area and across the organization; and
  • improve data auditing, thereby increasing overall data quality.