First draft of revised Data Reference Model released

The federal Data Reference Model working group released the first draft of the DRM Specification today. The working group is now soliciting feedback from government agencies before it submits the DRM to the Office of Management and Budget this fall.

The release of the DRM draft is an “important milestone” in the federal government’s efforts to better share information, said OMB chief architect Richard Burke. He spoke at the Data Reference Model Public Forum held today in Washington in conjunction with the federal CIO Council’s quarterly Emerging Technology Components conference.

“No one has tried this before at this scale,” Burke said. “This will provide an open and well-documented standard that will enable the organization and categorization of government information in the ways that are searchable and interoperable across agencies.”

OMB released the first version of the DRM last October and recruited Michael Daconta, metadata program manager for the Homeland Security Department, shortly thereafter to lead a working group to revise the model. The Federal CIO Council’s Architecture and Infrastructure Committee, OMB’s Federal Enterprise Architecture Program Management Office and DHS support the working group.

The new version offers a number of different components. The major piece is an Extensible Markup Language-based schema that agencies can use to describe their data, specifying what format the data is in, what topics the data addresses and how the data can be accessed. In addition to the schema, the DRM will also describe the management process that agencies should undertake to collect and register the data.

With the release of this draft, the working group is now soliciting feedback from government agencies on how to improve the model. The group has a set up a Web site and public mailing list to receive comments. It will also hold open workshops June 21, July 19, Aug. 16 and Sept. 23. The group will add new features to the document through Sept. 14 and will submit the finished draft to OMB Nov. 17. OMB should publish the revised DRM by Dec. 17, according to Daconta, who also spoke at the conference.

The DRM was designed primarily to give agencies a common framework to share data. The DRM can be used in conjunction with the National Information Exchange Model, a separate DHS and Justice Department effort to establish a basic terminology for marking data across all agencies. NIEM standardizes the language that two agencies can use to share data, while the DRM sets a standard format for describing sharable data that other agencies can discover and use, Daconta said.

“Today we move the abstract to the concrete,” Daconta said of the release of the draft. “This is a detailed blueprint of how organizations are going to describe the structure, categorization and exchange of their information. This is not abstract anymore.”

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