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USGS Data Management

Preserve

U. S. Geological Survey Data Lifecycle Diagram Plan Acquire Preserve Publish/Share Describe (Metadata and Documentation) Manage Quality Backup and Secure
USGS Data Lifecycle Diagram

Data Management: Preservation

Stick figure looking at four boxes: Four boxes of punch cards ought to be enough for anyone.
Image courtesy of xkcd.com.
Preservation involves actions and procedures to keep data for some period of time and/or to set data aside for future use, and includes data archiving and/or data submission to a data repository. A primary goal for the USGS is to preserve well-organized and documented datasets that support research interpretations that can be re-used by others; all research publications should be supported by associated, accessible datasets. Data must be disposed of in accordance with a written policy that conforms to the requirements of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Correct and prompt disposal of outdated information may reduce the Bureau's risk in some FOIA requests or legal actions, by demonstrating strict conformance to written policy and eliminating incorrect, outdated, or irrelevant information from the record.

Archive vs. Repository: Is There a Difference?

In the field of data management, the terms "archive" and "repository" often are used interchangeably. Within the Federal government, however, the term "archive" is specific to the mission and activities of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Only NARA, or a Federal entity officially delegated by NARA for the long-term curation of specific products, should be referred to as an "archive." The USGS Earth Resources Observations System (EROS) Data Center is one of the few government repositories officially recognized by NARA as an archive. Any similar Federal entity not receiving official NARA designation should be referred to as a "repository."

Archiving

Via the Bureau Windows Technical Support Team (BWTST): "Archives and Backups are two very different things. Backups are created for the express purposes of data restoration and continuity of operations in an emergency. Archives, on the other hand, are a means for long-term storage of historically important data which are probably no longer needed online for immediate access." Learn more about Archiving.

Disposition

Disposition is the final chapter in the records lifecycle, resulting in destruction of the records or their permanent, archival retention. Federal law requires the proper safeguarding of Federal records and makes it a crime to destroy them without the approval of the Archivist of the United States. In addition, the USGS creates many temporary or short-term records, some of which can be destroyed in a few years while others may have a lifecycle of 100 years. It is important to understand what a record is and how to manage it through its creation. Learn more about Disposition.

Persistent Identifiers

Persistent Identifiers are globally unique numeric and/or character strings that reference a digital object. Persistent identifiers can be actionable in that they enable a user to access the digital resource via a persistent link. They are intended to function for the long term. While there are several standard persistent identifier systems, the most relevant to USGS are Digital Object Identifiers (DOI). Learn more about Persistent Identifiers.

Repositories

A data repository is a centralized place to store and maintain data. A repository can consist of one or more databases or files which can be distributed over a network. Data repositories are often managed by data curation personnel who ensure that files are managed and preserved for the long term. Learn more about Repositories.

What the U. S. Geological Survey Manual Says:

The USGS Manual Chapter 432-1-S1 - USGS General Records Disposition Schedule, May 2009 discusses the required use and benefits of the General Records Disposition Schedule:

"By using the USGS GRDS, bureau employees will be able to effectively and efficiently manage agency records regardless of personnel or organizational changes. In addition, implementation of consistent records management practices will ensure:

  1. compliance with legal mandates and regulatory requirements;
  2. reducing costs associated with managing, archiving, and retrieving records;
  3. reducing the volume of records that must be managed and archived by destroying obsolete records;
  4. ready access to critical information;
  5. historical or long-term records are properly maintained and available for future projects."

The USGS Manual Chapter 432-1-S3 - Biological Resources Discipline Mission-Specific Records Schedule covers the importance of records documentation:

"Goal: Documentation of the actions of Federal officials means records that enable them to explain past decisions, form future policy, and be accountable for consequences. Documentation of the national experience means records of importance for evaluating the effects of Federal actions on the nation and for understanding its history, science, and culture, including the man-made and natural environment."

The USGS Manual Chapter 432-1-S3 - Biological Resources Discipline Mission-Specific Records Schedule addresses the responsibility of properly and safely maintaining records:

"Maintenance: While files are being stored locally, there is a responsibility to ensure the safety, and to prevent the damage or loss of, these files. Consideration shall be given to providing storage facilities that are fire and flood proof, safe from insect and other vermin damage, environmentally controlled, and under the management of a responsible party with a system for tracking files that are loaned out. The maintenance of electronic records - ensuring that they remain readable and are authenticated - is also the responsibility of the Science Center, as long as they own or maintain the records."

The USGS Manual Chapter 432-1-S5 - Geology Discipline Research Records Schedule discusses electronic records:

"The same rules for record retention and disposal apply to electronic records. This means the USGS is responsible for ensuring that all electronic records, regardless of format, are readable throughout their retention period."

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