Interestingly enough, there are several definitions of reference data, and even articles and debates about differences between reference data and master data. Please see the following sources for more about it:
Chisholm, Malcolm. “Master Data versus Reference Data.” Information Management (April 2006), www.information-management.com/issues/20060401/1051002-1.html.
Loshin, David. “Master Data and Reference Data—More Thoughts.” DataFlux Community of Experts (July 2010), www.dataflux.com/dfblog/?p=3391.
Mosely, Marty. “What ARE ‘Master Data’?” Initiate (June 2010), http://blog.initiate.com/index.php/2010/06/10/what-are-master-data/.
We actually have a very simple definition of reference data: Reference data is data used to validate other data. According to this definition, just about any data could be a reference at some point. Therefore, it is not actually the intrinsic content of the data that makes it a reference, but its usage. Obviously, caution should be taken when using any data as a reference to avoid inconsistency and misinterpretation.
Certain data sets are likely to be used as reference always, because they were created specifically for that intent. For example: a list of ISO country codes, or list of states and/or provinces within a country. Now, let's use customer name as another example. There is very little argument that customer name is one critical master data attribute of the entity customer. However, if a company is trying to analyze whether a new ...