A standard defines a frame of reference that encourages confidence between interacting parties. For example, when you fill your car's tank at a gas station, the standard definition of a "gallon" of gas will assure you that you are acquiring the amount of gas that you think you are. In turn, the standard definition of a "dollar" assures the gas station owner that you are paying him the appropriate value of the gas that you are purchasing. In essence, a standard is an agreement between interacting parties to the context of the interaction.

Presuming that any two (or more) parties wish to share information, there must be a way to describe what that information "looks like" so that when a data set arrives at its target location, the receiving party can actually do something with it. A data standard provides the guidelines through which interacting parties can confidently exchange information.

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