Implementation notes#

sdmx aims for a precise, Pythonic, and useful implementation of the SDMX standards. This means:

  • Classes and their attributes have the same names, types, cardinality that appear in the standard.

    • Where the standard uses non-Pythonic naming conventions (for instance, “dimensionAtObservation”), sdmx follows the PEP-8 naming conventions (for instance, “dimension_at_observation” for an attribute).

    • Where the standard is ambiguous or imprecise itself, implementation (for instance, naming) choices in sdmx are clearly labelled.

  • Extensions, additional features, and conveniences in sdmx that do not appear in the standards are clearly labeled.

  • All behaviour visible “in the wild”—that is, from publicly available data sources and files—is supported, so long as it is verifiably standards compliant.

This page gives brief explanations of how this implementation is achieved. Although this page is organized (see the contents in the sidebar) to correspond to the standards, it (again) does not restate them or set out to explain all their details. For those purposes, see Resources; or the Walkthrough, which includes some incidental explanations.

SDMX standard versions 2.0, 2.1, and 3.0#

Multiple versions of the SDMX standards have been adopted:

  • 2.0 in November 2005.

  • 2.1 in August 2011; published at the International Standards Organization (ISO) in January 2013; and revised multiple times since.

  • 3.0 in October 2021.

The standards are available on the SDMX website:

  • In SDMX 2.1, sections of the standards were numbered from 1 to 7. For instance, the Information model (SDMX-IM) is Section 2.

  • From SDMX 3.0, some of these section numbers have been removed. For instance, SDMX-ML was described in SDMX 2.1 sections 3A and 3B; in SDMX 3.0, these section numbers are no longer used, replaced with a reference to the SDMX Technical Working Group (TWG) Git repository at sdmx-twg/sdmx-ml .

  • Some of these sections or sub-standards are versioned differently from the overall standard. See in particular SDMX-CSV, SDMX-JSON, and SDMX-REST web service API below.

For the current Python package, sdmx:

  • SDMX 2.0 is not implemented, and no implementation is currently planned.

    • Some data providers still exist which only offer SDMX-ML 2.0 and/or an SDMX 2.0 REST web service. These implementations of SDMX 2.0 can be incomplete, inconsistent, or not fully compliant. This makes it more difficult and costly to support them.

    • While no SDMX 2.0 implementation is planned, contributions from new developers are possible and welcome.

  • SDMX 2.1 and 3.0 are implemented as described on this page, with exhaustive implementation as the design goal for sdmx.

  • For SDMX 3.0 specifically, as of v2.14.0 sdmx implements:

    • The SDMX 3.0 information model (model.v30), to the same extent as SDMX 2.1.

    • Reading of SDMX-ML 3.0 (reader.xml.v30).

    • Construction of URLs and querying SDMX-REST API v2.1.0 data sources (rest.v30).

    This implies the following are not yet supported:

    • Writing SDMX-ML 3.0.

    • Reading and writing SDMX-JSON 2.0 (see SDMX-JSON).

    Follow the What’s new?; #87; and other GitHub issues and pull requests for details. Please open an issue on GitHub to report examples of real-world SDMX 3.0 web services examples and specimens of data that can be added.

Information model (SDMX-IM)#


In general:

  • sdmx.model.common implements:

    1. Classes that are fully identical in the SDMX 2.1 and 3.0 information models.

    2. Base classes like BaseDataStructureDefinition that contain common attributes and features shared by SDMX 2.1 and 3.0 classes that differ in some ways. These classes should not be instantiated or used directly, except for type checking and hinting.

  • sdmx.model.v21 and sdmx.model.v30 contain:

    1. Classes that only appear in one version of the information models or other other.

    2. Concrete implementations of common base classes—for instance v21.DataStructureDefinition and v30.DataStructureDefinition—with the features specific to each version of the information model.

Python dataclasses and type hinting are used to enforce the types of attributes that reference instances of other classes. Some classes have convenience attributes not mentioned in the spec, to ease navigation between related objects. These are marked “sdmx extension not in the IM.”

Abstract classes and data types#

Many classes inherit from one of the following. For example, every Code is a NameableArtefact; [2] this means it has name and description attributes. Because every NameableArtefact is an IdentifiableArtefact, a Code also has id, URI, and URN attributes.

  • has a list of annotations.

  • Each annotation has id, title, type, and url attributes, as well as a text.

  • The Annotation text attribute is an InternationalString with zero or more localizations in different locales. This provides support for internationalization of SDMX structures and metadata in multiple languages.

  • has an id, URI, and URN.

  • is “annotable”; this means it is a subclass of AnnotableArtefact and also has the annotations attribute.

The id uniquely identifies the object against others of the same type in a SDMX message. The URI and URN are globally unique. See Wikipedia for a discussion of the differences between the two.

  • has a version number,

  • may be valid between certain times (valid_from, valid_to), and

  • is nameable, identifiable, and annotable.

  • is under the authority of a particular maintainer, and

  • is versionable, nameable, identifiable, and annotable.

In an SDMX message, a maintainable object might not be given in full; only as a reference (with is_external_reference set to True). If so, it might have a structure_url, where the maintainer provides more information about the object.

The API reference for sdmx.model shows the parent classes for each class, to describe whether they are maintainable, versionable, nameable, identifiable, and/or annotable.

Items and schemes#

ItemScheme, Item

These abstract classes allow for the creation of flat or hierarchical taxonomies.

ItemSchemes are maintainable (see above); their items is a collection of Items. See the class documentation for details.



A single data point/datum.

The value is stored as the Observation.value attribute.


A collection of Observations, SeriesKeys, and/or GroupKeys.


There are no ‘Series’ or ‘Group’ classes in the IM!

Instead, the idea of ‘data series’ within a DataSet is modeled as:

  • SeriesKeys and GroupKeys are associated with a DataSet.

  • Observations are each associated with one SeriesKey and, optionally, referred to by one or more GroupKeys.

One can choose to think of a SeriesKey and the associated Observations, collectively, as a ‘data series’. But, in order to avoid confusion with the IM, sdmx does not provide ‘Series’ or ‘Group’ objects.

sdmx provides:

Depending on its structure, a DataSet may be flat, cross-sectional or time series.


Values (Key.values) for one or more Dimensions. The meaning varies:

Ordinary Keys, e.g. Observation.dimension

The dimension(s) varying at the level of a specific observation.


The dimension(s) shared by all Observations in a conceptual series.


The dimension(s) comprising the group. These may be a subset of all the dimensions in the DataSet, in which case all matching Observations are considered part of the ‘group’—even if they are associated with different SeriesKeys.

GroupKeys are often used to attach AttributeValues; see below.


Value (AttributeValue.value) for a DataAttribute (AttributeValue.value_for).

May be attached to any of: DataSet, SeriesKey, GroupKey, or Observation. In the first three cases, the attachment means that the attribute applies to all Observations associated with the object.

Data structures#

Concept, ConceptScheme

An abstract idea or general notion, such as ‘age’ or ‘country’.

Concepts are one kind of Item, and are collected in an ItemScheme subclass called ConceptScheme.

Dimension, DataAttribute

These are Components of a data structure, linking a Concept (concept_identity) to its Representation (local_representation); see below.

A component can be either a DataAttribute that appears as an AttributeValue in data sets; or a Dimension that appears in Keys.

Representation, Facet

For example: the concept ‘country’ can be represented as:

  • as a value of a certain type (e.g. ‘Canada’, a str), called a Facet;

  • using a Code from a specific CodeList (e.g. ‘CA’); multiple lists of codes are possible (e.g. ‘CAN’). See below.

DataStructureDefinition (DSD)

Collects structures used in data sets and data flows. These are stored as dimensions, attributes, group_dimensions, and DataStructureDefinition.measures.

For example, dimensions is a DimensionDescriptor object that collects a number of Dimensions in a particular order. Data that is “structured by” this DSD must have all the described dimensions.

See the API documentation for details.


Code, Codelist

Category, CategoryScheme, Categorisation

Categories serve to classify or categorize things like data flows, e.g. by subject matter.

A Categorisation links the thing to be categorized, e.g., a DataFlowDefinition, to a particular Category.


v21.Constraint, ContentConstraint

Classes that specify a subset of data or metadata to, for example, limit the contents of a data flow.

A ContentConstraint may have:

  1. Zero or more CubeRegion stored at data_content_region.

  2. Zero or one DataKeySet stored at data_content_keys.

Currently, ContentConstraint.to_query_string(), used by Client.get() to validate keys based on a data flow definition, only uses data_content_region, if any. data_content_keys are ignored. None of the data sources supported by sdmx appears to use this latter form.

File formats#

The IM provides terms and concepts for data and metadata, but does not specify how that (meta)data is stored or represented. The SDMX standards include multiple formats for storing data, metadata, and structures. In general, sdmx:

  • Reads most SDMX-ML 2.1 and 3.0 and SDMX-JSON 1.0 messages.

  • Uses collected specimens of messages in various formats, stored in the khaeru/sdmx-test-data Git repository. These are used by the test suite to check that the code functions as intended, but can also be viewed to understand the data formats.


Reference: sdmx-twg/sdmx-ml

Based on eXtensible Markup Language (XML). SDMX-ML can represent every class and property in the IM.

Added in version 2.11.0: Support for reading SDMX-ML 3.0.


Reference: sdmx-twg/sdmx-json

Based on JavaScript Object Notation (JSON). The SDMX-JSON format is versioned differently from the overall SDMX standard:

  • SDMX-JSON 1.0 corresponds to SDMX 2.1. It supports only data and not structures or metadata.

  • SDMX-JSON 2.0.0 corresponds to SDMX 3.0.0. It adds support for structures.

  • See reader.json.

Added in version 0.5: Support for reading SDMX-JSON 1.0.


Reference: sdmx-twg/sdmx-csv

Based on Comma-Separated Value (CSV). The SDMX-CSV format is versioned differently from the overall SDMX standard:

  • SDMX-CSV 1.0 corresponds to SDMX 2.1. It supports only data and metadata, not structures.

  • SDMX-CSV 2.0 corresponds to SDMX 3.0.

Added in version 2.9.0: Support for SDMX-CSV 1.0.

sdmx does not currently support writing SDMX-CSV. See #34.

SDMX-REST web service API#

The SDMX standards describe both RESTful and SOAP web service APIs. sdmx does not support SDMX-SOAP, and no support is planned.

See Resources for the SDMG Technical Working Group’s specification of the REST API. The help materials from many data providers—for instance, ESTAT: Eurostat and related and ECB: European Central Bank—provide varying descriptions and examples of constructing query URLs and headers. These generally elaborate the SDMX standards, but in some cases also document source-specific quirks and errata.

The SDMX-REST web service API is versioned differently from the overall SDMX standard:

  • SDMX-REST API v1.5.0 and earlier corresponding to SDMX 2.1 and earlier.

  • SDMX-REST API v2.0.0 and later corresponding to SDMX 3.0 and later.

sdmx aims to support:

  • SDMX-REST API versions in the 1.x series from v1.5.0 and later

  • SDMX-REST API versions in the 2.x series from v2.1.0 and later.

  • Data retrieved in SDMX 2.1 and 3.0 formats. Some existing services offer a parameter to select SDMX 2.1 or 2.0 format; sdmx does not support the latter. Other services only provide SDMX 2.0-formatted data; these cannot be used with sdmx (see above).

Client constructs valid URLs (using URL subclasses v21.URL and v30.URL).

  • For example, Client.get() automatically adds the HTTP header Accept: application/vnd.sdmx.structurespecificdata+xml; when a structure=... argument is provided and the data source supports this content type.

  • v21.URL supplies some default parameters in certain cases.

  • Query parameters and headers can always be specified exactly via Client.get().

Source and its subclasses handle documented or well-known idiosyncrasies/quirks/errata of the web services operated by different agencies, such as:

  • parameters or headers that are not supported, or must take very specific, non-standard values, or

  • unusual ways of returning data.

See Data source limitations, Data sources, and the source code for the details for each data source. Please open an issue with reports of or information about data source–specific quirks that may be in scope for sdmx to handle, or a pull request to contribute code.