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Updated May 2021
This document provides guidance to U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) employees on distinguishing between the terms "new research or interpretive information products," and "previously published or noninterpretive information products" used by the Bureau and how these often confusing terms relate to levels of Bureau approval for USGS publications, web pages, and scientific data. The USGS considers data as noninterpretive information. These distinctions are important because Survey Manual (SM) chapter SM 205.18 - Authority to Approve Information Products1 specifies different Bureau approval authorities for new research or interpretive information products, (also known as "new interpretive") and previously published or noninterpretive information products. Bureau Approving Officials (BAOs) in the Office of Science Quality and Integrity (OSQI) are responsible for approving all new interpretive information products. The responsibility for approving all other information products rests with the Science Center Director (SCD), who also has discretion to request approval by a BAO for any product under their SCD approval authority.
The responsibility for making the distinction between new interpretive information products and the other products described in this document resides with the SCD. A BAO in the OSQI should be contacted for guidance if there is any doubt in making this distinction. Additional guidance is provided in a related decision workflow Distinguishing Noninterpretive, Interpretive and New Interpretive USGS Information Products.
A USGS scientific information product2 (referred to in this guidance as publications or information products) is the compilation of scientific communication or representation of knowledge such as facts, data, or interpretations in any medium (for example, print, digital, web) or form (includes textual, numerical, graphical, cartographic, and audiovisual forms), for release or dissemination by the USGS or a non-USGS entity to a defined external audience or customer. USGS information products have at least one Bureau-affiliated author (refer to SM 502.4). The term scientific “information product” encompasses other terms used in the Bureau, including but not limited to “publication,” “data product,” and “map product.”
The guidance and the examples below for noninterpretive, interpretive, not new interpretive and new interpretive information products (that are publications and web pages) excludes scientific data. Refer to the separate guidance and examples for scientific data also below.
Noninterpretive information products contain only statements that are primarily factual or observational in nature. They provide information about who did the research (collected the data), what research was done, and how, when, where, and why the research was done. These products do not provide an interpretation of what the data or observations mean. Noninterpretive information products may provide bibliographic citations and Internet links to interpretive products. Noninterpretive information products may be released in USGS publication series, outside publications, posters and presentation materials, on USGS web pages, or through various other methods.
Examples of Noninterpretive Information Products (Publications and Web Pages):
Interpretive information products contain information about the interpretation or meaning of scientific observations or data. These products might test or discuss scientific hypotheses, evaluate scientific methods, extrapolate from observations to predictions, patterns, or explore the consequences of assumptions. An information product, regardless of the venue or form of its dissemination, is treated as interpretive if anything in it is interpretive. Interpretive products may also selectively address the meaning of the work of others. There are two types of interpretive products—interpretive information products based on previously published information (not new) and new interpretive information products based on unpublished information.
Not new interpretive information products are a subset of interpretive information products that represent secondary uses of previously published interpretive information. Not new interpretive information may be released in USGS publication series, outside publications, posters and presentation materials, on USGS web pages, or through various other methods.
Examples of Interpretive Information Products (Publications and Web Pages) based on previously published (not new) information:
New USGS interpretive information products are a subset of interpretive information products that contain assertions or interpretations or use methods that have not been previously published. A synthesis of previously published information, if new conclusions are drawn, is also considered new interpretive information. New USGS interpretive information products may also be referred to as new research. Note that as stated above, secondary uses of previously published interpretive information products (such as USGS fact sheets) that present the information to a new audience or in a new format, are not considered new interpretive products. New interpretive information products can only be released in the appropriate USGS publication series, in outside publications, or in abstracts and presentation materials.
Examples of New Interpretive Information Products (Publications):
Scientific Data3 are observations or measurements represented as text, numbers, or multimedia. USGS does not consider scientific data to be interpretive. Data are created by using either a citable standard process or method, a newly developed process, or a process that is interpretive. The data creation processes must be documented in the metadata record for that data. When data are created by using a newly developed process or an interpretive process, that process must be fully documented in a peer reviewed publication (e.g., USGS series product, journal article). This could be a USGS techniques and methods report if the process is repetitive. Likewise, for a geologic map represented as a geographic information systems (GIS) coverage or for uniquely interpretive data (such as a contour line) from a groundwater model simulation, an associated peer reviewed information product is required to explain how these data are derived. In all cases the methods used to create data must be included as part of the complete metadata record. For data resulting from an interpretive process this is achieved by including a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) in the metadata that resolves to the peer-reviewed publication documenting the methods or interpretations used to create the data. All USGS data approved for release must contain complete metadata records; that is, the examples given below would be accompanied by a complete metadata record.
Examples of Scientific Data That Can Stand Alone:
Examples of Scientific Data That Must Reference an Associated Interpretive Information Product:
Modeled and Generated Data
1SM 205.18 - Authority to Approve Information Products makes a distinction related to approval authority between New Research or Interpretive Information Products and Previously Published or Noninterpretive Information Products.2Scientific information product definition as stated in SM 502.1 – Fundamental Science Practices: Foundation Policy.3Data Administration and Management Association (DAMA) definition of "data": Facts represented as text, numbers, graphics, images, sound or video. Data are the raw material used to create information. The DAMA definition of "model": An abstract representation of how something is built or how it works. A data model (a model that defines how data are connected to each other and processed and stored within the model system) is a static model. Process models and financial models can be dynamic, used as a means to simulate the real world. The DAMA definition of "information": Data in context. The interpretation of data based on its context, including the (1) the business meaning of data elements and related terms, (2) the format in which the data are presented, (3) the timeframe represented by the data, and (4) the relevance of the data to a given usage. Note: Information is being used inclusively to include data. (Refer to https://www.dama.org).
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