Metadata describes and gives information about data, it provides meaning and context by describing how data is defined, structured and represented. It can also be used to explain how data are captured and support the accurate interpretation of data. Robust metadata is essential for the effective management and use of data.
Metadata endorsed for use across Australia are referred to as data standards. These standards improve the quality, relevance, consistency and availability of national information about the health and welfare of Australians. High quality, nationally consistent health and welfare information is essential to inform the development and implementation of policies for improving health and welfare outcomes for all Australians.
Metadata governance and best practice in Australia
Under the National Health Information Agreement 2013, the AIHW is responsible for supporting the development, approval and maintenance of data standards for nationally consistent health information. In a health system dispersed across states and territories, national metadata standards are needed to ensure that health information collected by different organisations are consistent, accurate, and useful.
In Australia, national metadata standards are endorsed through a well-defined approval process that includes expert groups, registrars, data and information committees and registration authorities. These processes ensure the metadata is constructed correctly, is reusable and accurately describes the underlying data.
Quality assurance of data standards is supported through strong governance arrangements. Metadata items pass through rigorous approval processes (including expert data committees and technical reviews) and are reviewed for quality assurance before being considered for endorsement as a standard by a registration authority.
Registration authorities are responsible for endorsing data standards applicable to each sector. There are national and non-national registration authorities. National registration authorities have the ability to endorse national data standards. Non-national registration authorities support state and territory metadata development work.
When the AIHW agrees to establish a registration authority in METEOR, the service includes:
workgroups for data development activities
METEOR logins for nominated personnel, enabling viewer or developer access to authorised workgroups
METEOR user, developer and registrar training
a customised registration authority page in METEOR
Metadata development support
The AIHW provides support and training for metadata development. For example, the AIHW offers developer training for metadata being created within the METEOR platform as well as a review service that ensures metadata is constructed correctly, is reusable and accurately describes the underlying data.
Equally important to consistent robust metadata, is a central national registry. AIHW’s Metadata Online Registry, METEOR, is Australia's repository for national metadata standards for health, housing and community services.