Data Dictionary Resource for LifeCourse Cohorts
Developing clear and comprehensive metadata (‘data about data’) is a key feature of best practice cohort data management, allowing the information collected to be understood and analysed appropriately. A data dictionary is one essential component of this documentation, providing the names, definitions and attributes of each data element or variable within a study. An accurate and comprehensive data dictionary is particularly important for long-running LifeCourse cohorts, as it safeguards against loss of information about how and why data were collected over time. While all LifeCourse cohorts have a data dictionary, these currently employ a wide range of formats and vary in their comprehensiveness. The purpose of this document is to provide a resource for cohort custodians and project teams when designing or updating the format of their data dictionary, to promote consistency and best practice across studies in the types of information that are recorded. Data documentation standards continue to evolve, aided by new technologies and programmes to store, structure and access this information. Having cohort metadata in good working order is an essential step towards engaging with and benefiting from these developments in future.