An ISO/IEC 11179-based metadata registry (MDR) (hereafter referred to as a "registry") is a tool for the management of shareable data; a comprehensive, authoritative source of reference information about data. It supports the standardization and harmonization processes by recording and disseminating data standards, which facilitates data sharing among organizations and users. It provides links to documents that refer to data elements and to information systems where data elements are used. When used in conjunction with an information database, the registry enables users to better understand the information obtained.
A registry does not contain data itself. It contains the metadata that is necessary to clearly describe, inventory, analyze, and classify data. It provides an understanding of the meaning, representation, and identification of units of data. The standard identifies the information elements that need to be available for determining the meaning of a data element (DE) to be shared between systems.
The purpose of ISO/IEC TR 20943-1:2003 is to describe a set of procedures for the consistent registration of data elements and their attributes in a registry. ISO/IEC TR 20943-1:2003 is not a data entry manual, but a user's guide for conceptualizing a data element and its associated metadata items for the purpose of consistently establishing good quality data elements. An organization may adapt and/or add to these procedures as necessary.
The scope of ISO/IEC TR 20943-1:2003 is limited to the associated items of a data element: the data element identifier, names and definitions in particular contexts, and examples; data element concept; conceptual domain with its value meanings; and value domain with its permissible values.
There is a choice when registering code sets and other value domains in an ISO/IEC 11179 metadata registry. Some Registration Authorities treat these sets as value domains, and others treat them as data elements. For the purposes of ISO/IEC TR 20943-1:2003, the choice will always be to treat the sets as data elements unless explicitly stated. This choice is made to help illustrate the way to register many different kinds of data elements, including examples for registering standard code sets as data elements.