Data Inventory Is Key to Data Sharing and Accessibility

We recently posted the 2016 update to the Interagency Data Inventory on the OFR’s website. This inventory, which contains basic information about data collected by agencies of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, or FSOC, plays an important role in facilitating access to data for analyzing threats to financial stability.

To conduct good analysis on threats to financial stability, we need good data: solid, reliable, granular, timely, and comprehensive data.

The data inventory holds metadata, which is data about data, including names of the agencies collecting the datasets and brief descriptions of the collections.

In the same way a library’s card catalog provides basic information about books in a library without having to access the book, a metadata catalog provides basic information about a dataset without having to access the actual data.

Metadata catalogs are important in facilitating data accessibility — that is, the appropriate secure sharing of data between government regulators, and among regulators and the public. You have to know what exists before you can request that it be shared.

We are promoting the use of metadata catalogs by enhancing our own catalog and linking it to other agencies’ catalogs. If other agencies do not have catalogs, we plan to assist in creating and linking them. Our global vision also involves a federated approach to combining national data inventories containing metadata, linked together into a global data inventory.

Data sharing is essential because no single regulator or company alone has access to all of the data needed to paint a complete picture of threats to financial stability. Filling out the full picture requires secure, global data sharing and collaboration.

Data inventories are also useful for identifying data gaps. Filling data gaps requires assessing the data needed to answer the key questions we are trying to answer, and comparing the needs with available data. Metadata inventories that precisely describe the available data are thus essential to assess data gaps.

Analysts at federal regulatory agencies can use the inventory to gain an understanding of existing collections among FSOC member agencies, which helps to avoid duplication in designing new data collections or updating existing ones. In this way, the inventory is a tool for minimizing burdens on industry.

The Interagency Data Inventory, which began as an initiative of the FSOC Data Committee, is now in its third year. This year, the inventory contains references to 428 datasets, covering nine FSOC member agencies. The inventory is on the OFR website to promote public understanding of financial regulatory data collections.

Con Crowley is an OFR Deputy Director and Chief Data Officer