Information Resources and Technology Management

Definitions of Terms and Phrases

These terms, phrases, and definitions are provided to facilitate the understanding of the data standards presented at this site.

Classification System
A collection of procedures, characteristics, and definitions used to classify and/or identify, data objects or entities such as mammals, birds, wetlands, plants, insects, etc.
Data Element
The smallest and simplest unit of data that imparts meaningful information. A data element can be a field in a relational database, a column in a flat file, an attribute used to describe spatial data, or a row or column in a spreadsheet. Examples of data elements are name, date, length, time, or cost.
Data Layer
A spatial data set used in a Geographic Information System (GIS).
Data Set
A group of related records that are organized and treated as a unit. Examples of data sets are a database containing a mailing list or a flat file containing taxonomic names.
Data Value
A named component of a data element.
A series of defined steps to accomplish a specific task, such as creating standardized metadata for describing digital data sets or records of information resources.
A standard is "Adopted" when it has been approved by the Assistant Director-Information Resources and Technology Management and Chief Information Officer (CIO).
Approval Date
The date on which the CIO approved a data standard.
Data Steward
The person responsible for a data standard. In this role, a Data Steward is charged by his/her Management to develop and maintain the data standard and to counsel Service personnel on the proper use of the data. He/she must: have a thorough knowledge of the subject matter of the standard, provide accurate and current electronic copies of data relevant to the standard, and weigh the pros and cons of comments received during review of the standard. He/she is authorized to defend or modify the standard as necessary in order to ensure its proper use.
A brief description of the standard with sufficient detail to enable the reader to use the standard correctly.
A standard is a "Draft" until the designated Data Steward and National Data Administrator review, modify, and approve the proposed standard for internal review and comment.
FWS Created and Adopted
A standards is “Created and Adopted” when defined by the FWS, refined by internal review and then approved by the Assistant Director for Information Resources.
Historical Data Electronic copies of the original source data, as well as all revisions to the source data that occurred prior to the date noted in the Source section of the adopted standard. The initial data standard will also be provided if a major revision has undergone Service-wide review and is approved by the CIO.
In Review
A standard is "In Review" when the Director has distributed the standard to the Service Directorate for review. "In Review" also includes the period of time when the Data Steward is considering the comments received from the Service Directorate.
Initial Approval Date The date on which the CIO approved the initial data standard.
An easily understood name for the standard. It should not include jargon specific to a particular discipline such as biology, finance, engineering, etc. However, the name may include terms that are familiar to Service employees such as  "Region" or "Ecosystem".
Pending Revision A standard is "Pending Revision" when the Director has distributed a revision of the adopted standard to the Service Directorate for review.
A description of where the standard is in the development process. The options are: Draft, Working Draft, In Review, Adopted, and Pending Revision.
Point of Contact The person who is the first point of contact (POC) for questions and comments on a data standard when a Data Steward is not designated. A POC may also be identified to serve as the liaison between the designated Data Steward and Service users on all issues pertaining to the data standard.
Recommended Field Name The recommended field name to be used in a database to facilitate data transfer between different systems and databases.
A published reference that establishes or describes the standard.
A standard is “Retired” when it is no longer in effect in the FWS. Its retirement was requested by the data steward and approved by the Assistant Director for Information Resources.
Revision Approval Date The date on which the CIO approved a revision to the adopted data standard.
The source for electronic copies of the data values or data sets described by the standard.
Instructions describing how a data value should be coded and how long a data value may be. For example, NNN-NN-NNNN could be the syntax for coding a Social Security Number where each N represents a digit from 0 through 9.
Items designed to facilitate the use of a standard or data. Tools can be text files containing explanatory information, database lookup tables, programs, macros, etc.
A data element may contain data values of the following types: character, date, integer, time, real,  etc. Definitions for the types currently in use are given below; other definitions will be added as needed.
  • Alpha: all items in this field type are letters of the alphabet; no other ASCII characters are included.
  • Character: items in this field type can include any of the ASCII characters, such as letters of the alphabet, numbers, punctuation markings, etc.
  • Integer: a subset of numeric (see below), where decimal places are not used: a whole number.
  • Numeric: all items in this field type are numeric digits or items relating to numeric digits, such as a plus sign (+), minus sign (-), or decimal place(.) marker.
  • Real: a subset of numeric that requires decimal places.  The number of places should be defined.
Use Instructions
Instructions on how and when the data standard should be used. These instructions may also describe strengths and weaknesses of the standard.
Validation Date
The date the data standard was last reviewed by the Data Steward and/or POC to ensure continued utility and accuracy of the standard.
Working Draft
A standard is a "Working Draft" when it has been reviewed by the designated Data Steward and National Data Administrator, but has not yet been approved and distributed by the Director for a Service-wide review.


Last updated: February 8, 2013