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Whither DDI - Status and Prospects in Canada

Presenter 1
Bill Bradley
Health Canada (Retired)

The presentation summarizes a paper commissioned by Human Resources and Social Development Canada to examine the present status and future prospects of the Data Documentation Initiative (DDI) as a basis for improving the provision and exchange of policy-actionable data and knowledge in Canada. The paper takes the perspective of a major investor in the DDI, and is written in two parts.

Part 1 provides an introduction to the DDI for researchers and knowledge workers. It describes the current state of the standard, its implementation in software tools, and the adoption of such tools in Canada's universities and governments. It introduces Version 3 and associated issues. Although there are some encouraging signs, the evidence suggests that the DDI is fragile, has not yet achieved much return on investment, and is taking on considerable risk. Part 2 introduces some of the difficulties in implementing standards for statistical metadata. It outlines the essential elements for a successful DDI: a)the standard; provision of metadata and content according to that standard, b) provision of sustainable, industrial-strength metadata management, web server, and 'killer' end-user applications to make it so, c) and close co-ordination among the elements to focus limited resources on the achievement of strategic goals. Part 2 provides an assessment of the status of the DDI for each element.

The paper concludes that investments in the various components that comprise the DDI are asynchronous with the realities of the standard's overall implementation, take-up and payoffs. There appears to be almost no coordination between the elements, and little recognition among those working in each area of the interdependence of their efforts. The paper proposes that a meeting take place between key actors to initiate better coordination processes, and makes interim suggestions for action by each.

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