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Data Release

Key Points

  • New OSTP and OMB policies require data release at the same time the journal article or USGS series report becomes open access.
  • New USGS policies on data establish requirements for releasing data.
  • Allowing data producers to control when their data are released can minimize their risks and concerns about data sharing.

The policies of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Office of Management and Budget and the USGS now require the publication or public release of USGS data. USGS policy also requires that publicly released or published data receive approval before release, unless the data are preliminary or provisional.

External scientists, other agencies, and organizations request data from the USGS for analysis or integration with their databases and datasets. Additionally, journals and publishers are increasingly requiring release of data to accompany approved publication. New USGS policies clarify and facilitate the release of data to the public.

In February 2012, the Community for Data Integration (CDI) created a new working group called the Data Release Team, which focuses on addressing the release of USGS data and metadata. The working group has developed helpful guidance for data and metadata review, which may be used to fulfill USGS review requirements for obtaining approval for data release:

Additionally, the team developed a workflow (that is continually evolving) based on use case methodology to help with implementation of data release:

Confused about interpretive versus non-interpretive information products?

USGS Fundamental Science Practices provides a decision tree [PDF] to help clarify when an information product is non-interpretive or interpretive. More information about the differences is available at the Web site Fundamental Science Practices (FSP) entitled “Distinctions Between New Research or Interpretive Information Products and Previously Published or Noninterpretive Information Products”.

Data Release in the USGS

Many scientific journals now require that scientists store their data and methods in a public archive as part of the publishing process. The February 2013 Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Open Access memo states that the data upon which a scholarly conclusion in a scientific publication is based must be made available online at the same time the scientific manuscript is made available to the public. The May 2013 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Open Data initiative specifies details of open access requirements for data released to the public.

Under Federal law, the USGS must retain the official record copy of all permanent data related to scientific research and related activities; therefore it is unwise to deposit data solely in portals not operated by the USGS or another US government entity. Practical issues arise such as: if a dataset is in two locations, which copy will be the authoritative copy and how will it be resolved by search engines? How will the dataset be cited if it resides in multiple locations? Who maintains the portal, and what processes are in place to ensure continued access to the portal? It is OK to use non-Federal catalogs as long as the catalog points back to the USGS official data location.

It is also important to note that release of USGS scientific data is a separate and required process from the production of a USGS Data Series report. While both data releases and Data Series must follow FSP and go through IPDS to obtain approval, Data Series are considered USGS series publications and must also be reviewed and formatted by the Science Publishing Network (SPN). Additionally, the method for assignment of a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) differs depending on whether the outcome is a data release or a Data Series. The USGS Data Series describes the data beyond what can be contained in the metadata and points to the DOI associated with the data release.

For more information please check out Fundamental Science Practices FAQs: Release of Scientific Data and Metadata for USGS Scientific Data.

For guidance on disclaimer statements in your data and metadata please see Guidance on Disclaimer Statements Allowed in USGS Science Information Products.

Examples of data release across USGS:

What the U.S. Geological Survey Manual Says:

The USGS Instructional Memoradum IM OSQI 2015-03 – Fundamental Science Practices: Review and Approval of Scientific Data for Release stipulates data must be approved before release and provides details on what is required to obtain approval to publish or release data to the public.

So what to do?

Place your data on one of the existing USGS data portals, place it on one of the data services maintained by your science center for that purpose, or place it on your project public Web site. Whichever option you choose, the data must meet all FSP requirements related to data release, metadata and preservation.

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Page Last Modified: Thursday, September 10, 2015