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An Open Data Model for the MR Industry The Challenge and the Promise Peter Andrews SPSS MR Historically, the survey research industry and its computer software suppliers have been forced to accept barriers to the interchange of survey data between software systems and operating environments. These barriers, arising in part from disparate formats for handling the unique requirements of survey data, have been handled primarily through import and export programs, usually of limited effectiveness, and substantial production delays and costs are often incurred as a result. While significant headway has been made against the basic interchange problem by standards groups such as the SSS Committee, the challenge is in the meantime evolving. The survey research industry is beginning to see growing client demand for ever more complex analysis and data mining, for customer relationship management, for web-based publishing of interactive databases, and for executive information systems and marketing information portals that integrate multiple data streams. As we rise to meet these needs, we encounter fundamental inefficiencies arising from the difficulty of integrating applications from multiple vendors to create comprehensive solutions for clients. The fundamental need is not only for a medium of interchange, for study profile and respondent data, but for a means of simplifying the creation and linking together of application programs across a diverse range of functionality. The challenges include both logistical and industry issues: on the one hand, the need to handle the requirements of survey data, as well as practical issues that include hierarchical data structures and the tracking of changes over time in longitudinal survey instruments; and, on the other, to achieve consensus among industry players and software providers on the benefits to all of adopting a “lingua franca” that will allow applications from competing suppliers to share information simply and openly. This paper will provide an overview of an effort by SPSS MR to create an open data model for use by the survey research industry. It will review some of the challenges; the potential benefits for agencies and their clients, systems suppliers, and the industry as a whole; and lessons gathered to date from this extensive undertaking.
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