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Focus Area

Data Inventory


Data inventories are as essential to agencies as card catalogs are to libraries. These inventories make data assets discoverable to machines and humans. To inform policy decisions, CDO’s must ensure their data inventories support their agency missions. To date, Federal data inventory guidance and standards are compliance focused. Federal open data guidance drove agencies to generate inventories for, and the Evidence Act requires open data catalogs while the Geospatial Data Act does the same for the Geoplatform. Both use cases emphasized public discovery – by humans and by search engines. Agencies have their own use cases, above and beyond public discoverability. Agencies are seeking an opportunity to expand inventory use cases, provide input to guidance and shape standards development activities.

Why this matters to the CDO Council

Data inventories are vital for discovering the data driving informed decisions Americans deserve. Yet the exponential growth in federal data makes it difficult to find, fuse and use. Overcoming this challenge requires enhanced inventory approaches. Enhancing agency inventories reduces the complexity and burden analysts and data scientists face. Improving agency data inventories will increase the value of federal data assets.

Data standards, and metadata standards specifically, are the subject of great attention in both the Evidence Act and Geospatial Data Act. The World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) industry-adopted standards (e.g., and Data Catalog Vocabulary (DCAT) offer immense potential as a starting point for the working group. Other inventory standards development organizations include, but are not limited to, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), and others. The working group’s use cases should emphasize data discovery and data interoperability while being agnostic to technology. These use cases should consider the complete lifecycle of our nation’s data assets.