What is a data standard?
A data standard is an agreed upon approach, to allow for consistent measurement, qualification or exchange of an object, process, or unit of information. Data standards include documented agreements on representation, format, definition, structure, tagging, transmission, manipulation, use, documentation, and management of data (visit the National Library of Medicine (NLM) definition and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) definition for details).
Why use data standards?
The goal of data standards is to improve the usability of data and enable researchers to easily combine and co-analyze multiple datasets (i.e., improve interoperability).
Using data standards throughout the data lifecycle can reduce time and costs by minimizing implementation of new or customized approaches for similar research areas.
Data standards should be used and preserved across the data lifecycle, including during:
- Collection, such as using standard forms, questions, formats
- Harmonization and Curation, mapping to ontologies or controlled vocabularies, implementing standard workflows
- Submission, to data repositories, for example by annotating common data elements (CDEs) in data dictionaries and providing metadata
- Sharing, through data repositories that enable use by other researchers
What data standards are relevant to NICHD?
Please note: NICHD does not approve or disapprove data standards. Instead, the institute encourages the use of data standards suitable to the study design, the type of data collected, characteristics of the dataset, and best practices of the respective research community.
Please note that some data repositories may encourage or require use of specific data standards. Check the NICHD Data Repository Finder to find metadata requirements and data formats used by some NICHD-relevant data repositories.
The following existing data standards may be relevant to researchers who receive or are applying for NICHD support. Several categories of data standards exist, and sometimes a given standard falls into several categories. Although this information will be updated regularly, it is not intended to be comprehensive.