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Data Standards

Federal, National, and International Data Standards

The National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 directs agencies to use voluntary consensus standards in lieu of government-unique standards except where inconsistent with law or otherwise impractical.

Many resources are available for discovering standards developed external to EPA. Contractors are required to adhere to these standards where applicable. The following is a partial list of available resources.

Federal Standards:

The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) Exit

FGDC is an interagency committee that promotes the coordinated development, use, sharing, and dissemination of geospatial dataHelpgeospatial dataData that identify, depict, or describe the geographic locations, boundaries, or characteristics of the Earth's inhabitants or its natural or human-constructed features. Geospatial data include geographic coordinates (e.g., latitude and longitude) that identify a specific location on the Earth; data that are linked to geographic locations or have a geospatial component (e.g., socio-economic data, land use records and analyses, land surveys, homeland security information, and environmental analyses). Geospatial data may be obtained using a variety of approaches and technologies, including things such as surveys, satellite remote sensing, Global Position System (GPS) hand-held devices, and airborne imagery and detection devices. The Exchange Network has agreed that the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) standards of GEO RSS (Geographical Really Simple Syndication) and Geographic Markup Language (GML) are the preferred ways of exchanging geospatial data. Both of these encode geospatial data in XML similar to environmental data. on a national basis. This nationwide data publishing effort is known as the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI). The NSDI is a physical, organizational, and virtual network designed to enable the development and sharing of this nation's digital geographic information resources. FGDC develops geospatial data standards for implementing the NSDI, in consultation and cooperation with State, local, and tribal governments, the private sector and academic community, and, to the extent feasible, the international community. FGDC develops geospatial data standards only when no equivalent voluntary consensus standards exist, in accordance with OMB Circular A-119.

The National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) Exit

NIEM enables information sharing, focused on current or intended business practices. It is designed to develop, disseminate, and support enterprise-wide information exchange standards and processes to effectively share critical information in emergency situations in addition to day-to-day operations of disparate agencies. An Information Exchange Package Documentation (IEPD) is the set of specifications, represented in Extensible Markup LanguageHelpExtensible Markup LanguageA flexible language for creating common information formats and sharing both the format and content of data over the Internet and elsewhere. The electronic language that expresses and transports data standards and transaction sets. XML uses an extensible set of tags to describe the meaning of data. XML, a formatting language recommended by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). For guidance on the development of XML schema for the Exchange Network or related activities of the Network Technical Group, see the Exchange Network Web site at (XML), that describe the function and structure of a NIEM information exchange. The Universal Core (UCore) of NIEM is a set of the most common data elements used in many exchanges. These data elements represent the concepts of "who," "what," "where," and “when” contained in the Federal Enterprise Architecture Data Reference Model (FEA-DRM).

Federal Spending Transparency Data Standards Exit

Pursuant to the Digital Accountability and Transparecy Act of 2014 (DATA Act), the Office of Management & Budget and the Department of the Treasury established the following set of final federal-wide data standards for federal funds made available to of expended by federal agencies and entities receiving federal funds.

National Standards:

American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Exit

ANSI provides a forum for over 200 ANSI-accredited standards developers representing organizations in the private and public sectors. These groups work to develop voluntary national consensus standards and American National Standards (ANS). In 2002, there were approximately 10,000 such documents. ANSI engages in accrediting programs that assess conformance to standards – including globally-recognized cross-sector programs such as ISO 14000 (environmental) management systems.

International Standards:

International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Exit

ISO is the world largest standards developing organization. Between 1947 and 2008, ISO has published more than 17000 International Standards, ranging from standards for activities such as agriculture and construction, through mechanical engineering, to medical devices, to the newest information technology developments. Note: Since "International Organization for Standardization" would have different acronyms in different languages ("IOS" in English, "OIN" in French for Organisation Internationale de Normalisation), its founders decided to also give it a short, all-purpose name. They chose "ISO", derived from the Greek isos, meaning "equal". Whatever the country, whatever the language, the short form of the organization's name is always ISO.

Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) Exit

The United Nations, through UN/CEFACT, supports activities dedicated to improving the ability of business, trade and administrative organizations, from developed, developing and transitional economies, to exchange products and relevant services effectively. Its principal focus is on facilitating national and international transactions, through the simplification and harmonization of processes, procedures, and information flows. It encourages close collaboration between governments and private business to secure the interoperability for the exchange of information between the public and private sector. It has developed: 

  • The UN Layout Key for Trade Documents, which is the foundation for the European Union's Single Administrative Document (SAD)
  • UN/EDIFACT, the international standard for electronic data interchange
  • Numerous trade facilitation recommendations