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Fundamental Science Practices (FSP)

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FSP Frequently Asked Questions

The frequently asked questions (FAQs) below represent a Bureau consensus to ensure interpretations of USGS Fundamental Science Practices (FSP) policies are uniformly applied throughout USGS.

The FAQs will be updated as necessary and changes in the form of additions or revisions are reflected by date (month/year) as they occur. Questions about the FSP that are not addressed here or that can not be answered by a Bureau Approving Official should be directed to gs_fspac@usgs.gov.


Note: The term "Science Center Manager" is equivalent to other terms in use at the USGS, such as Team Chief Scientist, Chief of the Branch of Regional Research, Center Chief, and Center Director, Coop Unit Leader, and Cost Center Manager.




  1. What is the foundation of the FSP?
  2. What are the requirements related to planning and conducting data collection and research?
  3. What USGS science information products must follow FSP? [Revised April 2014]
  4. What are the basic FSP requirements for review, approval, and release of information products?
  5. How does USGS comply with the OMB requirements for information quality and peer review?
  6. Where can I find information specifically related to the approval requirement for USGS information products?
  7. Are there any provisions for expedited peer review and Bureau approval?
  8. Do final technical reports to cooperators or partners have to go through the FSP review and approval process?
  9. How is the production and release of approved USGS series information products handled?
  10. What is the FSP workflow involved in managing the development steps of USGS information products?
  11. Who can I contact if I have additional questions about the USGS FSP?


1. What is the foundation of the FSP?
The foundation of FSP is to bring forward a set of fundamental principles that underlie USGS science practices, uphold the Bureau's scientific reputation, and underscore its mandate to provide reliable science to address pressing societal issues (SM 502.1). These principles address how data collection and research activities are planned and conducted (SM 502.2) and promote broad release and communication of the results of these science activities in information products that are appropriately reviewed, approved, and released (SM 502.3 and SM 502.4). The choice of what work is to be accomplished, however, remains in the purview of the Bureauís science planning process.

2. What are the requirements related to planning and conducting data collection and research?
USGS data collection and research activities are governed by work plans that are reviewed by appropriate experts and approved at some level higher than the project chief, generally by the Science Center Manager or equivalent. A work plan, which can be a component of a proposal, is handled through the Bureau planning process. Proper documentation is required to ensure that scientific goals are achievable and are appropriate to the mission of the USGS, and that research can be interpreted appropriately. Data collection and research activities are carried out in a consistent, objective, and replicable manner that has been vetted through a vigorous and open process of peer review (refer to SM 502.2). Information products resulting from data collection and research activities, regardless of the outlet in which they are published, must follow the appropriate requirements for review, approval, and release.

3. What USGS science information products must follow FSP?
All USGS information products (whether they are published by the USGS or by an outside entity) must comply with FSP requirements if the author has full time, part time, or volunteer (including emeritus) USGS affiliation or shared affiliation (for example, between the USGS and a university). These products include USGS publication series, a set of information periodicals, and infrequently used special book or map products (SM 1100.3) as well as public USGS Web pages and exhibits. The FSP requirements must also be met for journal articles, abstracts, and other science products that USGS authors publish in non-USGS or outside publication outlets (SM 1100.4) such as cooperating Federal, State, local, and tribal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and scientific and technical societies.

4. What are the basic FSP requirements for review, approval, and release of information products?
All information products must receive the following reviews and approvals as appropriate, generally in the order shown: (1) Peer review, which ensures the scientific quality of USGS information (as detailed in SM 502.3); (2) Editorial review, (required for USGS publications series), which ensures that appropriate Bureau standards and quality assurance for accuracy and clarity of expression are met (as detailed in SM 1100.2); (3) Policy review (part of Bureau approval), which ensures that all policies relevant to USGS FSP are met and identifies policy-sensitive issues, including those that may have implications related to current policy or that may involve matters of national interest, security, or potential commercial gain (as detailed in SM 502.4); (4) Approval which includes those of line supervisors generally following the organizational alignment of the senior USGS author, and, subsequently, Bureau approval, which validates the scientific excellence of the information product by the appropriate officials (as detailed in SM 205.18); and (5) Release of the products published by USGS through the USGS Publications Warehouse and USGS Store (if printed in hardcopy) or submitted to an outside entity for publication.

5. How does USGS comply with the OMB requirements for information quality and peer review?
USGS websites, Guidelines for Ensuring the Quality of Information Disseminated to the Public and the USGS Peer Review Agenda Web site, serve to comply with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requirements regarding information quality and peer review of influential products.

6. Where can I find information specifically related to the approval requirement for USGS information products?
Information related to whatís involved in conducting Bureau approval for USGS science information is found in SM 502.4. Requirements regarding who has the authority to approve specific information products are found in SM 205.18.

7. Are there any provisions for expedited peer review and Bureau approval?
If it is anticipated that an information product will need to be handled in an expedited manner, the author and (or) Science Center Manager should communicate this to the Bureau Approving Official as soon as possible to arrange expedited approval. Expedited peer reviews should be arranged within the Science Center when the peer reviewers are selected.

8. Do final technical reports to cooperators or partners have to go through the FSP review and approval process?
Yes. All information products, including those submitted to an agency that has provided funding to the USGS to carry out scientific research, assessments, or investigations that report on final technical outcomes of a project must be peer reviewed and receive Bureau approval. Courtesy reviews, as appropriate, may be conducted by outside organizations that are in partnership with the USGS, have coauthored an information product, and/or who have a stake in the impact of its release and these reviews should be done at the same time or just after the peer review. In being afforded a courtesy review prior to publication and release, such parties are bound by the Bureau's nondisclosure policy (refer to SM 502.4).

9. How is the production and release of approved USGS series information products handled?
Publishing managers and publishing staff in the USGS Science Publishing Network (SPN) work closely with authors to provide production support, including design and layout for approved USGS series information products (SM 1100.3). SPN staff also coordinates the release of all USGS series information products. Additional information related to USGS publishing is found at http://www.usgs.gov/publishing/.

10. What is the FSP workflow involved in developing information products?
An FSP workflow showing typical development steps spanning the time from the author's creation of the information product to its release for publishing is available.

11. Who can I contact for additional information or questions about USGS FSP?
For additional information or questions about USGS FSP, contact gs_fspac@usgs.gov.

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