Next version of Data Reference Model gets down to business

The working group applying the finishing touches to the latest version of the Data Reference Model says this edition will benefit from previous missteps.

With the deadline to submit a draft of Version 1.5 and two other documents to the CIO Council by Oct. 17, officials expect agencies to implement the new DRM as being part of their business processes. The group plans to deliver the final draft to the Office of Management and Budget by Nov. 17.

“This will not be a burden,” said Michael Daconta, the Homeland Security Department’s metadata program manager and lead architect developing the Federal Enterprise Architecture’s DRM.

“We are taking a step back in some instances, but we are achieving quite a bit,” Daconta said at a recent enterprise architecture conference in Washington sponsored by the E-Gov Institute.

OMB’s Federal Enterprise Architecture Program Management Of- fice last October released Version 1.0 and it immediately came under fire for being hard to implement. Agency officials said they were unsure of how to define certain data types in the business context and package information to be shared. The DRM also did not address data security and privacy issues.

More strategies coming

In addition to the new version of the DRM, the working group will submit to the CIO Council the DRM Management Strategy and the DRM Implementation and Test Strategy.

The working group started reworking the fifth FEA reference model last February. After OMB receives the final draft, it will have a month to make changes before sending the final DRM as part of a report to Congress on the implementation of the E-Government Act of 2002.

“The DRM is not just about exchanging information, because what about those communities that don’t share information or communities that are more mature?” Daconta said. “We had to expand our thinking. We have to map existing standards to an approach using Extensible Markup Language.”

Daconta added that while the concept received mixed reviews initially, the goal is to come to a common understanding of data.

Version 1.5 answers three questions, he said:
  • Data context—how is the data found?

  • Data sharing—how is the data exchanged?

  • Data description—what does the data mean?

The working group also is developing an XML 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.

The schema will include all three attributes of the data and subattributes, such as data as-sets, data exchange points and controlled vocabularies.

“XML might give a higher degree of specificity than some might need,” Daconta said. “The schema might be for a data asset, but other parts of the data might not need the schema.”
In fact, Daconta said not every agency or community of interest would need the different levels of data standards. The DRM allows for that, he said. The DRM would create five levels of increasing specificity, starting with describing data and ending with measuring how the data is being shared.

Still being fleshed out

“All of this is under consideration,” Daconta said. “We have not fully normalized the best way for when each level of specificity is appropriate.”

The new DRM also will provide Recreation One-Stop as an example of how to use the DRM, a glossary of terms and the agency address to submit comments.

Daconta said DHS and the Environmental Protection Agency are interested in testing the DRM once it is finalized.

“The DRM needs to be tested in operation situations,” he said. “The DRM will tell agencies [that] certain things will be optional and certain things will be mandatory. We haven’t figured that out yet, and piloting the DRM will help us do that.”

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