Views on improving the integrity of global capital markets
23 April 2020

Like Financial Reporting, COVID-19 Needs Structured Data

CFA Institute has long argued for the increased use of structured data in financial reporting as this would allow data to be easily accessed, analyzed, and reused for investment decision-making purposes. We also have argued that the data be structured using Inline XBRL given that it is both human and machine-readable.

What if there was a way to produce human-readable reports and visualizations that simultaneously provided access to the data that they contain in a machine-readable manner that everyone could reuse? Or if instead of reproducing reams of tabular statistics in PDF or plain HTML, it was possible to make those tables both machine and human-readable? It would make a host of official statistics vastly more useful, allowing users to quickly and easily produce their own analysis of the raw data. It would make scientific papers significantly easier to review. It would help identify strengths and weaknesses in data sources, focusing effort on making necessary improvements.

XBRL International reports that Reportix co-founder and CEO Dennis Münkle has asked why — given all of the statistics, dashboards, and other reports about the current pandemic —it is still difficult to access, analyze, and reuse the raw data in many, if not most, of these reports.

Reportix took the available data and republished it using Inline XBRL along with visualizations of the data. Data-driven reports often are produced in PDF (e.g., World Health Organization COVID-19 situation reports), which is a good format for humans to read and print; however, this format requires an error-prone and labor-intensive manual process to extract any actual data points. Creating the data using Inline XBRL would make it much easier for various parties to access, analyze, and reuse such information to improve pandemic management — just as it improves financial reporting.

Image Credit: © Getty Images/Andriy Onufriyenko

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About the Author(s)
Mohini Singh, ACA

Mohini Singh is director of financial reporting policy at CFA Institute. She represents membership interests regarding financial reporting and disclosure proposals issued by the FASB, the IASB, and others. Singh holds the Associate Chartered Accountant (ACA) designation.

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