1. Introduction

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1. Preface: objectives, structure and scope of report

This report is part of a package of projects launched by the Danish Ministry of Environment and Energy for the support of the European Environment Agency (EEA). The scope of the report has been defined in a cooperation between the EEA and the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (Danish EPA). The project was initiated in August 1995 and completed in December 1995 / January 1996.

One of the core tasks of the EEA and the EIONET will be the establishment of a comprehensive, coherent and quality-ensured collection of environmental data. Data for this purpose must be collected from many different sources among the EU countries. For this reason it is important as soon as possible to establish the conditions for a non-problematic transfer of data between the many participants in the network of organizations related to the agency. Without this, the collection of data will be extremely time consuming and resource-requiring. It is also important to ensure the possibilities of combining data across subject-areas regardless of where and by whom data were collected.

The experience from the development and use of systems like the Danish STANDAT system is relevant in this connection. STANDAT is the Danish system for exchange of environmental information - a concept that includes a range of code lists, a standardised file format and some dedicated computer systems for the support of the STANDAT users as well as an organisational structure.

It is important to emphasize that the aim of the project is not an adoption of the STANDAT system by the EEA, but an attempt to utilise the experiences gained i Denmark from the use of such a standardised system.


The main objectives of this project are:

  • To transfer knowledge and experience of the use of the Danish STANDAT system to the EEA
  • In brief to examine a couple of other relevant formats for data transfer in operation, using a predefined set of parameters
  • To contribute to the development of a data transfer system for the EEA that will ensure an uncomplicated exchange of environmental data in the EEA network.

Scope of report.

As described above the main point of the project is the utilisation of the experiences of the STANDAT format. Therefore, it has not been an aim of the project to go deep into other formats or concepts for data exchange. Two such other formats are discussed briefly for reasons of comparison. Using these as references is especially important when discussing ideas for development of an exchange format like STANDAT, and as a background when presenting different scenarios and recommendations.

Data exchanged via written forms are not relevant in the context of this report.

Nor is it the intention of the report to go into any detail with different technical solutions based on the use of edp-based networks etc.

Structure of report.

First of all, it should be noted that the last chapter of the report (chapter 13) gives an executive summary, that provides a brief overview of the main points of the report.

The first chapters of the report concentrate on STANDAT itself. Chapter 2 is concerned with the background and history of STANDAT and answers such questions as: Why develop a standardized system for data transfer, how was STANDAT developed, what considerations were taken into account during the development process.

Chapter 3 describes the system of code lists - there are four different types of code lists.

Chapter 4 presents the file format with the three sections: the HEADER section, the DEFINITION section and the DATA section.

Chapter 3 and 4 are rather technical in their content and should be skipped by readers not interested in these aspects of STANDAT.

Chapter 5 deals with edp support programmes for the STANDAT system. The STANDAT load programme for loading data into databases is presented together with the STANDAT support programme for the support of the users when producing and checking files.

Chapter 6 is about the organizational structure for administration, maintenance and development of the STANDAT system.

In chapter 7 the process of defining, creating and transferring a STANDAT file is described and the main principles are presented.

Chapter 8 analyzes the experience of the use of the STANDAT system.

Chapter 9 describes two other, similar interchange formats. The descriptions are mainly based on a predefined set of parameters, eg general concept, use of file format, use of code lists and organizational preconditions.

Chapter 10 introduces ideas for further development of an interchange format for environmental data like the STANDAT system based ia on some of the points in chapter 9.

Chapter 11 sets up different scenarios for data transfer and discusses in what situations each scenario is relevant. First a brief overview is presented of the differences between the EEA and the Danish environmental administration when it comes to organisational set up and needs for data transfer.

Chapter 12 presents conclusions and overall recommendations.

Acknowledgements and sources of information

This project was carried out by a project group consisting of Kit Clausen and Annelise Ravn of the Danish EPA.

Apart from our own knowledge and experiences from the development and use of the STANDAT system, the inputs for the project has been extensive discussions with colleagues in the Danish EPA, experts from the EEA, Eurostat and SANDRE/France.

We have received invaluable help from colleagues working with or having worked with STANDAT, Sten Aabo Hansen, Niels Henrik Mortensen and Erling Lyager. From the EEA, especially Jef Maes and Sigfus Bjarnason have been involved in the project. Furthermore we have had discussions with Philippe Lebaube, Olli Janhunen, Chris Nelson and John Allen from Eurostat in Luxembourg, and Vincent Blanc (Office International de l'Eau) in France.

We would like to express our thanks to all the people we met in connection with the making of this report for the kind support and valuable information received.

European Environment Agency (EEA)
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1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100