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U.S. Geological Survey

Biological Resources Discipline Mission-Specific Records Schedule

432-1-S3

July 3, 2007


Biological Resources Discipline Mission-Specific Records Schedule

TABLE OF CONTENTS

GOAL OF RECORDS MANAGEMENT

PURPOSE OF THE RECORDS SCHEDULE

SCIENCE PROJECT CASE FILES

Basic Structure

Case File Materials

Datasets

Media

FILES MANAGEMENT

Arrangement

Titling/Labeling

Local Filing

SPECIAL CASES

Legacy Records

Joint Projects

Classified/Propriety Records

Additional Scheduling

RECORDS HANDLING

Maintenance

Retention

Disposition

BIOLOGICAL RESOURCES DISCIPLINE RECORDS SCHEDULE

1600-01. Science Project Case Files - Project Planning, Conduct, and Outcome

1600-02. Science Project Case Files - Independent Datasets

1600-03. Science Project Case Files - Associated and Supporting Technical Information

1600-04. Proposed Projects

GOAL OF RECORDS MANAGEMENT

The goal is to ensure that there is a record of the science done by the USGS Biological Resources Discipline (BRD) so that essential evidence is preserved that documents: 1) rights of American citizens, 2) actions of Federal officials, and 3) national experience. Documentation of the rights of citizens means records that enable them to establish their identities, protect their rights, and claim their entitlements. 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.

PURPOSE OF THE RECORDS SCHEDULE

This Records Schedule provides for the identification, maintenance, and disposition of mission-specific records generated or received by the scientific work of the BRD of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

[NOTE: For administrative records, use the USGS General Records Disposition Schedule (GRDS) included in the USGS Survey Manual, number 432-1-S1; also available on the USGS Intranet: http://internal.usgs.gov/gio/irm/grds.html.

In general, a records schedule is the basic tool used in records management. It provides instructions for what to do with records (and non-record materials) no longer needed for current Government business. It contains directions regarding: 1) what will be retained, 2) what can be discarded, 3) the retention period for these materials, and 4) the organization and arrangement of these materials.

SCIENCE PROJECT CASE FILES

Basic Structure

USGS/BRD scientific investigations cover a wide range of topics that vary considerably in scope and duration. Because of this, it is difficult to provide a "one size fits all" detailed records schedule for BRD science activities. However, it is possible to establish a generic structure that reflects the inherent administrative organization, thereby providing for coordination and consistency of record keeping while, at the same time, allowing for some local flexibility.

Records management is most effective when incorporated into the fabric of business practices and systems operations. Scientific investigations of USGS/BRD are organized by project, task, and subtask in BASIS+, the USGS system for project planning and financial management (http://internal.usgs.gov/ops/basis/) or by project as described in the Science Information System (SIS). USGS defines a project as "a planned effort with a goal or set of goals and a staff and budget that results in a product or service. All work, scientific, managerial, or administrative, performed in the USGS, is part of a project." (From USGS Project Definition, A Report to the Executive Leadership Team, March 4, 2002.)

The basic structure of the BRD mission-specific records schedule is the "case file". "Case" equates with a science project, task, or subtask (as defined by BASIS+ for records generated since the initiation of that system, or as defined by SIS for records generated since the establishment of the National Biological Survey until the implementation of BASIS+). The case file is a selective collection of documents containing all the pertinent information necessary to the official representation of the life history and outcomes of a science project, task, or subtask. Other records will likely be generated in the course of a scientific investigation (e.g. personal notes, incidental correspondence), but assessed as not necessary or useful to the documentation of the project, task, or subtask, and therefore not included in the case file. These temporary records (referred to as "Science Project Case Files - Associated and Supporting Technical Information" in the Schedule) shall be retained only as long as needed.

Established scientific procedure calls for careful documentation of a scientific investigation, so the case file should be intrinsic to current business practices. When a project, task, or subtask is established (or where one already exists), an official case file will also be established. The specific content of a case file is determined from the information in the "Case File Materials" section below and by accepted scientific practice.

Case File Materials

The BRD Records Schedule recognizes the wide range of scientific investigations conducted by BRD, with its many unique processes, data types, investigational and analytical techniques, equipment, facilities, and products. This section attempts to provide some guidance regarding the identification of case file materials, but, given this inherent variety, is not intended to be prescriptive. Therefore, it will be the responsibility of each Science Center to develop and implement guidelines ensuring the integrity of the BRD Records Schedule. Such Guidelines shall be reviewed and approved by the appropriate next level in the USGS/BRD Chain of Command (Regional Executive; Chief, Cooperative Units; Chief Scientist), as appropriate.

Datasets

Among the documentation generated by a scientific investigation, datasets have a distinctive position, particularly those that have the potential to be re-evaluated or used in a new project. In addition, there are projects where the dataset is the primary objective and the core product, such as the Breeding Bird Survey. These are valuable assets for BRD. For this reason, the records schedule addresses these datasets as a separate item.

Media

Case files are media neutral. If paper is the primary format for a case file, then e-mails, reports, spreadsheets, and other substantive documentation that may be electronic should be printed out and incorporated into the case file, to the extent practicable. If a case file that contains various media formats is to be transferred to a National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Federal Records Center (FRC) facility, the media storage issues will be addressed at that time as part of the accessioning process. With regard to materials in electronic format, NARA has a major initiative addressing this area, Electronic Records Management (ERM): http://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/initiatives/erm-overview.html. Among the products that are being developed as part of this initiative are "Guidance Products" (http://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/initiatives/erm-products.html.) that provide "Transfer Instructions" for various electronic formats, such as PDF, geospatial data, digital photographs, etc.

[NOTES:

FILES MANAGEMENT

Arrangement

The determination of whether to establish case files at the project, task, or subtask level must be made by the project chief, using this flexibility to provide for efficiency and effectiveness in record keeping. Guidelines for determining the level at which case files shall be organized include: providing for the documentation needs of those performing the investigation, having case files located close to where the work is being done, establishing case files that are stand-alone units, allowing for file labeling that is specific to the investigation and/or product being documented. For example: "Biological Impacts of Metals from Abandoned Mine Lands in the Upper Animas River Watershed, Colorado" provides for a better case file unit than "Contaminants: Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry", because of its specificity and uniqueness.

Where the component parts of project, task, and subtask are inter-dependent (i.e. collectively necessary to the understanding of the scientific investigation), coordination across the project is needed to ensure the integrity of the records management process: that all the component parts of a project provide for the appropriate record keeping, and that records arrangement is consistent across locations. Arrangement includes consistent project titling and file labeling. In some cases, coordination may need to extend across regions and disciplines for projects that cross these delimiters. Such coordination is the responsibility of the project chief.

Titling/Labeling

The titling and labeling of case files must be consistent with the structure and terminology used in BASIS+ (Project, Task, Subtask) regardless of the physical format or location of the file. The main objective for the arrangement and headings is to organize the documentation of a scientific investigation in identifiable, descriptive, and comprehensive units that mirror the identification of activities in parallel administrative/management materials. The arrangement then is hierarchical as it is in BASIS+, with the label for the case file mirroring this file arrangement:

Project

        Project - Task

            Project - Task - Subtask

In addition to the names of the project/task/subtask, the label shall include the schedule item number, the name of the principal investigator(s), and the date coverage of file materials.

Note that in this arrangement a particular location may have files containing less than the complete set in the hierarchy. For example, a field station or science center may have only the one file (Project - Task - Subtask) because that is the only portion of a project being performed there.

Local Filing

In some cases it may be useful to provide more detail regarding the contents of a case file. This can be done locally by adding subsections to the case file in the local file plan, organizing the materials along such lines as facets, phases, and/or timeframes related to a project, task, or subtask. This does not affect the scheduling of the records, but rather is supplemental to it. The local file plan shall indicate the use of these subsections, and the appropriate portion of the file plan listing the case file subsections shall be included in the file itself. This will aid in file maintenance and will assist subsequent users of the case file.

SPECIAL CASES

Legacy Records

All science records currently in the possession of BRD (i.e. not yet transferred to NARA) must be scheduled using this schedule. This includes records created prior to the implementation date of this schedule. The two primary sets of legacy records are: 1) records dating from BRD's inception as the National Biological Survey to the present day, and 2) records still held from when a BRD unit was part of the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), National Park Service (NPS), etc.

Joint Projects

In the case of joint projects - projects that are done in cooperation with one or more government agencies or with non-government organizations such as a university - the organization that is providing the funding for the project is responsible for records management and has ownership of the records generated by the project, unless contractual obligations state otherwise. The specifics about which agency maintains the records shall be clearly delineated in the project agreement. If the funding is shared among the participants, then each participating agency is responsible for maintaining a set of records according to its agency's records management schedule and procedures.

Classified/Propriety Records

Classified records, such as those from projects related to national security issues, are scheduled the same as non-classified records. When a case file that contains classified materials is ready to be transferred to a NARA FRC, the classified records from the file need to be separated from the non-classified records and sent to an FRC that meets the appropriate level of classification. The records will remain in the classified vault until the classification is downgraded. Once downgraded, these records will then be merged with, or cross-referenced to, the original case file.

Regarding proprietary records, such as studies of endangered species containing location information, the agency has ownership of its records until they are legally transferred to NARA, even if they have been physically sent to a NARA FRC for storage. Therefore, all requests for information would go to the originating agency and the agency would respond appropriately, restricting access to proprietary information as required. When record ownership is transferred to NARA, the agency needs to indicate to NARA what information is proprietary and NARA will redact that information. The agency is also responsible for notifying NARA when such restrictions can be lifted.

Additional Scheduling

If there are science materials to schedule that do not fit the case file approach, then the appropriate Science Center will be responsible to work with their records management staff on devising a schedule to be added to the BRD Records Schedule. However, it is hoped that users of this schedule will try to take advantage of its flexibility before adding specificity or detail that may become quickly outdated and require more maintenance than this "big bucket" approach. All new schedule items must be approved by NARA. In this case, NARA has a program of Targeted Assistance that can be used to help in the development of the schedule addition: http://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/initiatives/targeted-assistance.html"

RECORDS HANDLING

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.

Retention

As part of the records management process, each Science Center will need to establish review procedures for determining the retention category of each project case file. Prior to closing a project case file and transferring it to a NARA FRC, the file will be reviewed by the Science Center Director, in consultation with those responsible for the work (project chief, principal investigator, etc.), to determine if the case file will be selected for permanent retention, or designated long-term or short-term temporary. Selection criteria to assist with making this determination are listed in the schedule. Further indication of the value of the project is reflected through the selection of the length of time the file will be kept within the designated timeframes for long and short-term temporary retention. If desired, guidelines may be developed locally to assist with making this determination. Project case files selected for permanent retention must be clearly labeled as such, and stored separately from temporary case files while in the custody of BRD.

Each Science Center will also need to establish a process for reviewing temporary records prior to their destruction. This will provide an opportunity to reevaluate the records in light of the current knowledge of BRD scientific investigations and biological science in general. It is possible that a different assessment of the records' value will result, and a different retention period assigned. If the records have been stored in a FRC, a notice is sent prior to disposal so that the agency can reevaluate at that time.

Disposition

Temporary records can be held by a Science Center until their destruction; permanent records have specific stipulations about their disposition. However, there may be reasons for choosing to transfer records to NARA or to a NARA FRC for storage prior to their disposition (accessioning into NARA for permanent records or destruction of temporary records). In particular, electronic records have created specialized demands with regard to storage and maintenance needs, especially related to the migration of record formats to new technologies. Because of these and other maintenance concerns, NARA recommends that permanent records be accessioned into NARA five years after cutoff in order to ensure they receive appropriate care. However, consideration should be given to retiring records to a NARA FRC - especially permanent and long-term temporary records - one year after cutoff, particularly if space is a problem and/or there are specific environmental needs. This practice ensures the records are properly stored and spares individual Science Centers' space, effort, and expense.

[NOTES:

Sending records to a NARA FRC for storage (http://www.archives.gov/frc/pdf/booklet.pdf) does not transfer ownership of the records, which is a separate action (accessioning). If needed, files can be retrieved from the NARA FRC at which they are stored. (Copies of the form used to make the transfer, SF 135, should be kept to facilitate retrieval.) The instructions for retrieving records are found at: http://www.archives.gov/frc/reference-services.html.

As noted above, task and subtask files of a project may be maintained in a variety of locations. Whether or not the complete hierarchy, or portions of the hierarchy, of a project are subsequently brought together physically prior to disposition with NARA will be at the discretion of those responsible for the work - as part of the coordination process noted above under "Arrangement". If case files are inter-dependent, it will be necessary to bring the files together.

[NOTE: The maintenance of official case files does not preclude scientists maintaining copies of materials as desired for their work and professional activities. However, all copies of temporary records are subject to deletion/destruction as designated in the schedule. The USGS can request that records eligible for disposal be transferred to an individual or organization only with prior written approval of NARA. (36 CFR Chapter XII, 1228.60 - Donation of Temporary Records)]

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U. S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY

BIOLOGICAL RESOURCES DISCIPLINE RECORDS SCHEDULE

This schedule covers Biological Resources Discipline (BRD) records in any and all media, in any and all formats, and produced using any and all tools. Records may include, but are not limited to, word processing documents, presentation materials, statistical data, test data, spreadsheets, databases, e-mail, e-messages, photographic materials, audio materials, film, video materials, drawings, and artwork.

1600-01 Science Project Case Files - Project Planning, Conduct, and Outcome || 1600-02 Science Project Case Files - Independent Datasets || 1600-03 Science Project Case files - Associated and Supporting Technical Information || 1600-04 Proposed Projects

Item No. Description of Records Disposition Instructions
1600-01. Science Project Case Files - Project Planning, Conduct, and Outcome Includes all pertinent information necessary to the official representation of the life history and outcomes of a science project.

Includes materials generated or received, covering all phases of a scientific investigation:

  • Documents related to planning and establishing of requirements, overall organization, functions, procedures, and operations of a science project.
  • Basic field, laboratory, or other primary monitoring, analytical, or interpretive data and information in support of the scientific project.
  • Reports of original scientific and technical results and conclusions.

Examples of materials to be included in the case file are:

  • Planning documents (e.g. proposals, BASIS+ project descriptions).
  • Records of appraisal, evaluation, or review.
  • All records pertaining to scientific peer review of proposals and products.
  • Documents from policy review of official expression including final Bureau approval, as delegated.
  • Original observations (e.g., field notes, data sets, original maps containing field observations and measurements, aerial photographs bearing original annotations).
  • For datasets, descriptive documentation, such as metadata records, that provide an understanding of the particulars and limitations of the dataset for assessing its usability in a potential application, as well as technical documentation adequate to identify, service, and interpret electronic records.
  • Original laboratory notes, original laboratory equipment printouts showing analytical results together with sample numbers and sample identifications.
  • Procedural components, methodologies (e.g. models, sampling methods).
  • Benchmarks, key intermediate documented data sets, or decision points in data analysis that can be used for various interpretive studies.
  • Final results of scientific investigations, including publications.

NOTE: Chapter 1300, of the USGS GRDS addresses all records associated with USGS publications.

Closing. The closing of a case file shall be a determination of the Science Center that the file is no longer necessary to the science process (i.e. no longer being used) because the particular project, task, and/or subtask is completed. If a project is of a long duration and the volume of records is large, the files may be cut off at logical points (subproject, task, or phase completion) or at a specified number of years. This shall be reflected on the case file label.

Retention. Prior to closing a project case file and transferring to storage, the file will be reviewed by the Science Center director, in consultation with those responsible for the work (project chief, principal investigator, etc.), to determine if the case file shall be selected for permanent retention or designated as long-term temporary or short-term temporary. Selection criteria to assist with making this determination are listed below. In addition, at the same time, a determination will be made regarding the length of time the file will be kept within the designated timeframes for long and short-term temporary retention, further reflecting local assessment as to the value of the project.


1600-01a. Project Case Files - Permanent Retention Selection Criteria: Project case files meeting one or more of the following criteria shall be considered for permanent retention, clearly labeled as such, and stored separately from temporary case files while in the custody of BRD. All permanent case files must be transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) separately from temporary case files with a statement certifying that the case files have been appropriately reviewed.

Case files of scientific investigations that may be appropriate for permanent retention:

  • Those that are deemed to be Influential Scientific Information or Highly Influential Scientific Assessments (per Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Bulletin for Peer Review, December 15, 2004):
    • "Influential scientific information" means scientific information that USGS reasonably determines will have or does have a clear and substantial impact on important public policies or private sector decisions.
    • An "assessment" is defined by OMB as: an evaluation of a body of scientific or technical knowledge, which typically synthesizes multiple factual inputs, data, models, assumptions, and/or applies best professional judgment to bridge uncertainties in the available information.
    • A scientific assessment is a subset of "influential scientific information" and is considered "highly influential" by OMB if: the agency or the OIRA Administrator [Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in OMB] determines the dissemination could have a potential impact of more that $500 million in any one year on either the public or private sector or that the dissemination is novel, controversial, or precedent setting, or has significant interagency interest.
  • Other possible candidates for permanent retention are scientific investigations that:
    • Receive national or international awards of distinction.
    • Were the work of prominent USGS investigators of widely recognized professional stature, or who have received national or international recognition outside their professional discipline.
    • Resulted in a significant improvement in public health, safety, or other vital public interest.
    • Made a significant contribution to new national or international environmental policies, or had a significant impact on the development of new national or international scientific, political, economic, or social priorities.
    • Were the subject of widespread national or international media attention.
    • Resulted in significant social, political, or scientific controversy.
    • Were the subject of extensive Congressional, Department of the Interior, or other government agency scrutiny or investigation.
    • Established a precedent for significantly changing USGS scientific investigations or administrative policies.
    • Provided continuation of long term data collection and monitoring efforts of national or international interest.
PERMANENT. Cutoff 1 year after project completion, cancellation, or termination. Transfer case file to the NARA 5 years after cutoff or when no longer needed for business, whichever is shorter, and any accompanying scientific data in electronic form in accordance with 36 CFR 1228.270 or standards applicable at the time.
1600-01b. Temporary Project Case Files

1600-01b(1). Long term Retention Selection Criteria: Case files of scientific investigations that may be appropriate for long-term retention are those that:

  • Have implications for future scientific investigations.
  • Are not classified as short-term, but for which the classification of permanent is not readily apparent.
  • Might benefit from the passage of time for determining their value.
Cutoff 1 year after project completion, cancellation, or termination. Destroy 20-35 years after cutoff.
1600-01b(2). Short-term Retention Selection Criteria. Case files of scientific investigations that may be appropriate for short-term retention are those that:

  • Are narrowly-focused, short-term projects with the primary purpose of providing a client with an answer to a specific, local problem/question.
  • Are not part of any scientific investigation of larger scope.
  • Do not have the potential for developing into an expanded investigation.
Cutoff 1 year after project completion, cancellation, or termination. Destroy 3-10 years after cutoff.
1600-02. Science Project Case Files - Independent Datasets Refers to datasets resulting from monitoring, whether obtained through instrumentation or manually gathered. These datasets often cover an extended period of time, and can be open-ended, with data collection ongoing and planned to continue indefinitely. The resulting dataset is usually the primary outcome of the science project (as opposed to datasets that are limited to, derived for, or created in support of a particular scientific investigation), and functions as a common resource - "independent" of a particular project - that can be made available for use by any appropriate scientific investigation or application.

The case file for independent datasets should include documentation describing the dataset. Documentation, such as a metadata record, should provide an understanding of the particulars and limitations of the dataset for assessing its usability in a potential application.


1600-02a. Datasets Retention: Datasets will be reviewed by the Science Center Director, in consultation with those responsible for the work (project chief, principal investigator, etc.), to determine if the dataset shall be selected for permanent retention, or designated long-term or short-term temporary.

In determining whether to designate a dataset as permanent or temporary, refer to "Retention Selection Criteria" used for Project Case Files in Item 1600-01. In this evaluation, consideration should also be given to the uniqueness of the dataset, the cost or possibility of replicating it, and how intrinsic it is to BRD science.


1600-02a(1). Permanent Data Use "Retention Selection Criteria" for Project Case Files in Item 1600-01. PERMANENT. Transfer to NARA 5 years after cutoff or when no longer needed for business, whichever is shorter, as specified in 36 CFR 1228.270 or standards applicable at the time.

NOTE: Periodically, dataset records considered permanent should be evaluated for transfer of copies to an appropriate storage facility, as specified in 36 CFR 1228.162 for vital records, regardless of the ongoing nature of the overall data collection effort. This will ensure legacy collections remain intact. Care should be taken to distinguish between versions of the data sent to permanent storage since such review will usually involve reporting the entire data set as it currently is used including all corrections, amendments, and in some cases new analyses since the last transfer.

1600-02a(2). Temporary Data. Use "Retention Selection Criteria" for Project Case Files in Item 1600-01
1600-02a(2)(a). Long Term
Cutoff 1 year after project completion, cancellation, or termination. Destroy 20-35 years after cutoff upon approval by BRD and USGS stakeholders. A longer retention may be deemed necessary for scientific purposes.
1600-02a(2)(b). Short-term
Cutoff 1 year after project completion, cancellation, or termination. Destroy 3-10 years after cutoff.

NOTE: As with permanent dataset records, consideration should be given to securing the dataset(s) by periodically transferring copies to an appropriate storage facility, as specified in 36 CFR 1228.162 for vital records, regardless of the ongoing nature of the overall data collection effort.

1600-02b. Dataset System Documentation Information related to the data and the development and functionality of the data systems. This includes any testing procedures, quality checking guidelines, government or contractor created material and handbooks, and other related materials, including records layouts, data elements definitions, code translation tables (codebooks) for coded data, and all other documentation necessary to interpret the system. Maintain with dataset.
1600-02c. System Inputs Information input to the specific science dataset obtained through instrumentation or manually gathered. Cutoff when information has been verified within the system. Destroy when no longer needed for reference.
1600-02d. System Outputs Reports and summaries of analytical findings related to a science project, task, or subtask. Cutoff 1 year after project completion, cancellation, or termination. Follow appropriate disposition guidelines for Science Project Case Files, including electronic and textual working papers and products. Applicable Item 1600-01.
1600-03. Science Project Case Files - Associated and Supporting Technical Information Includes incidental project information not appropriate to the official project case file, i.e. not necessary to the official representation of the life history and outcomes of a science project, such as personal notes, transitory correspondence, etc. Destroy when the case file is closed or when no longer needed for current business.
1600-04. Proposed Projects To be used for materials (such as proposals, budgets, other planning documents) related to proposed projects that are not funded/implemented. Destroy when the case file is closed or when no longer needed for current business.

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