Recommendation: Encourage Federal agencies to use ISO/IEC 11179 metadata registries to inventory the data elements on Government forms

Background: Two important aspects of putting forms on the Web are: Structure and Content (semantics). XML is one of the most useful technologies for determining the structure of a document so that it is well displayed on a wide variety of devices. It is also important to describe the content of forms, in terms such as:

Such information is called "metadata" and may be essential to those: Metadata describing each form and its data should be collected and managed as an integral part of the process of posting forms on the Web. Metadata facilitates use of the forms, lays the foundation for future efforts to simplify forms, helps reduce the burden of data collection, and increases the usability of collected data.

An international standard (ISO/IEC 11179) has been specified to guide the process of recording metadata. Freeware metadata registries will soon be available. Such registries would be particularly helpful in developing and maintaining an inventory of the data elements on government forms.

The standard will make it much easier to gather and share metadata within and among agencies. It will also help to reduce the cost of maintaining metadata. Interoperable metadata registries maintained by Federal agencies would greatly facilitate consistency of data and forms within and among agencies. Sharing of forms and data will reduce the burden imposed upon the public by government forms and reports.

ISO/IEC was developed and continues to evolve through voluntary standards development organizations. As provided in OMB Circular A-119, Government agencies are participating in those organizations. The primary organization for U.S. participation in development of ISO/IEC 11179 is the National Committee for Information Technology Standards (NCITS), L8 - Metadata. Dan Gillman chairs the committee and can be contacted at: The committee is working to extend the standard to include a set of XML tags for metadata describing the data elements on government forms.

Submitted by: Bruce Bargmeyer, EPA (edited by Owen Ambur, USFWS), April 12, 2000