Science Support

120.6 - Office of the Associate Director for Core Science Systems


Date: 12/29/2020

OPR: Office of the Associate Director for Core Science Systems

Instruction: This revises the chapter dated August 25, 2015 to reflect current organizational structure.


1.  General Functions. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Office of the Associate Director for Core Science Systems, provides executive leadership for fulfilling USGS’ role as the National Civilian Mapping Agency, including topographic and geologic mapping in support of Federal and State requirements, national geospatial coordination in support of the DOI and Federal Geographic Data Committee, geospatial mapping and applications in support through the Civil Applications Committee, and satellite operations and remote sensing. In addition, the Associate Director provides executive leadership for: research, modeling, and analysis of land change science, biological occurrence data acquisition, biological taxonomic analysis and interpretation, computational analytics and synthesis; integration of USGS national data sets, data management, storage, accessibility and policy; preserving geological, geophysical, and paleontological data; managing the archive of geoscience samples, including rocks, fossils, sediments, and ice cores; managing the network of libraries in support of USGS Earth science research. The office also manages the Nation’s land imagery in support of a broad range of national and international purposes.

2.  Associate Director for Core Science Systems. The Associate Director exercises the authority delegated by the USGS Director for the development, integration, management and accessibility of USGS national data sets. The Associate Director also creates and maintains The National Map, collects and integrates base national geospatial datasets, coordinates data discovery and access, and ensures consistent and current data are available for the Nation. Through participation on the Federal Geographic Data Committee, the Associate Director promotes and promulgates consistent geospatial data and metadata standards, enhances the National Spatial Data Infrastructure, and adoption of cross-government best business practices for geospatial resources, policies, standards and technology. The Associate Director exercises the authority delegated by the USGS Director to provide leadership and nationwide guidance for the land use change research activities of the bureau and ensures integration of these activities with the strategic goals of the USGS, DOI, and the U.S. Global Change Research Program. This includes scientific and technical leadership in the areas of land use monitoring and analysis, remote sensing science, and planning and development of expanding Earth observation programs. Responsibilities are shared with a Deputy Associate Director. The Associate Director and Deputy Associate Director are assisted in the development and implementation of Core Science Systems by:

A. Core Science Systems Program Coordinators who are responsible for Core Science Systems planning, budget development, and program evaluation. The Program Coordinators develop strategic program plans, coordinate programmatic activities within and outside the USGS, and conduct program reviews of Core Science Systems to ensure the activities support USGS program needs and fulfill the needs of users. The Core Science Systems programs include the:

(1)  Science Synthesis, Analysis, and Research (SSAR) which provides analysis and synthesis of scientific data and information, bureau-wide scientific data management, advanced research computing, interdisciplinary research, and long-term preservation of scientific data and library collections. SSAR ensures that data are strategically managed, integrated, and available to decision makers and others as they focus on issues associated with Earth and life science processes. SSAR houses the bureau’s Associate Chief Data Officer with delegated authority from the DOI Chief Data Officer to support the lifecycle and manage the portfolio of data assets from their respective bureau or office, champion data inventory and dissemination, and engage with data users and evaluation units within the organization. SSAR includes the following components:

(a)  USGS John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis which facilitates USGS researchers and their colleagues to focus on complex Earth system and natural resource questions in order to advance the state of knowledge and to provide resource managers and policy makers with the synthesized scientific information required to address Earth system science issues.

(b)  National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program which preserves physical geoscience samples, and analog and digital geoscience data, including rocks, sediments, and ice cores; fossils; field notes and reports; thin sections and geochemical databases. The USGS cooperates with State geological surveys and other Interior bureaus to accomplish this work. The program manages the Geological Materials Repository, preserving valuable rock and ice cores for use by scientists and educators from government, industry, and academia.

(c)  Science Analytics and Synthesis and USGS Library which focuses on biodiversity, computational, and data science to accelerate scientific discovery that addresses societal challenges. The program conducts biological occurrence data acquisition, biological taxonomic analysis and interpretation, high performance computing, computational analytics and synthesis, science data management, and provides access to broad collections of scientific information. The USGS Library supports fundamental scientific research conducted within the USGS and is one of the world’s largest Earth and natural science repositories. The Library is used by both USGS and external researchers and the public and provides comprehensive access to Earth and natural sciences literature, and information.

(d) Risk and Vulnerability Assessments program conducts scientific research and assessments that address the Nation’s critical environmental, natural resource, and economic challenges. The program conducts interdisciplinary research and projects that create datasets, analyses and tools to improve the understanding of Earth system change and conducts research on multi-hazard risk assessments and risk analysis.

(2)  National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program which produces geologic maps and 3-D frameworks that provide critical data for sustaining and improving the quality of life and economic vitality of the Nation. The geologic maps are indispensable to understanding Earth surface processes and groundwater availability and quality; supporting the Department of the Interior land management decisions; mitigation of hazards; and assisting in ecological and climatic monitoring and modeling.

 (3)  National Geospatial Program (NGP) which organizes, maintains, and publishes the geospatial baseline of the Nation’s topography, natural landscape, and built environment. Accessed through The National Map, NGP products and services are incorporated into decision making and operational activities. The NGP generates and maintains the USGS digital topographic map series known as US Topo, Alaska topographic maps, and high-resolution geospatial data for elevation, hydrography, and other thematic datasets. NGP Liaisons work with Federal, State, and local agencies to leverage the costs of acquiring geospatial data via the private sector. The NGP supports and provides leadership for the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN), to approve and standardize geographic names for the Federal Government, with the BGN and Executive Secretary for the Board operating with the delegated authority of the Secretary of the Interior.

(4) National Land Imaging Program which supports USGS activities that provide high-quality remotely sensed data for understanding the Earth’s landscape. The NLI Program ensures a comprehensive record of land surface data are available for research and decision making by DOI, other USGS programs, and other Federal, State, and local interests. The NLI Program funds and supports the collection, processing, archiving, and distribution of operationally and scientifically relevant global land and coastal observations acquired from aircraft or satellites, including the Landsat series; ensuring that these data are permanently maintained and made accessible to USGS partners, cooperators, stakeholders, and other customers; and investigating future remote sensing missions, sensors, and data relevant to the mission of DOI. The program also supports the development of a comprehensive and integrated land-change monitoring and assessment capability that provides essential measurements needed to quantify and understand patterns of land change, provides inputs to land-change and land cover models, and informs scientific assessments and decision makers. The program also leads the National Civil Applications Center, which provides for the acquisition, dissemination, archive, and exploitation of classified remote sensing systems and data to address land and resource management, environmental, hazards, disasters, and other geospatial scientific analysis and policy issues. NLI also provides the Executive Secretariat for the Civil Applications Committee, which coordinates and oversees the Federal civil use of classified overhead remotely-sensed assets. 

B. Federal Geographic Data Committee Office of the Secretariat (FGDC OS) which administers the activities of the 32-member interagency committee that promotes the coordinated development, use, sharing, and dissemination of geospatial data on a national basis. The FGDC implements the Geospatial Data Act of 2018 and oversees the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) which is a physical, organizational, and virtual network designed to enable the development and sharing of the Nation’s digital geographic information resources. The FGDC administers and supports the Geospatial Platform, a managed portfolio of common geospatial data, services, and applications contributed and administered by trusted sources and hosted on a shared infrastructure, for use by government agencies and partners to meet their mission needs and the broader needs of the Nation. The FGDC administers and supports the National Geospatial Advisory Committee to garner input and participation from non-federal partners and constituents across the public and private sectors on Federal policies, programs, and the development of the NSDI.



/s/ Katherine M. McCulloch                                             December 29, 2020

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Katherine M. McCulloch                                                   Date

Associate Director for Administration