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Data Release

Publication of scientific data as stand-alone products or in conjunction with the scholarly articles they support is integral to the open data movement. The USGS has developed a path for formally releasing or publishing USGS scientific data called a "data release."

Open Data Overview 

Requirements referenced in the USGS Public Access Plan:

  • The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) February 22, 2013, Memorandum entitled "Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research" requires public access to digital data resulting from federally funded research, including data used to support scholarly publications.
  • The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), May 9, 2013, Memorandum M-13-13 entitled "Open Data Policy-Managing Information as an Asset" requires agencies to support downstream dissemination activities for all new information created and collected (e.g. using machine readable and open formats, data standards, and common core and extensible metadata).


What the U.S. Geological Survey Manual Requires: 

  • SM 502.6 - Fundamental Science Practices: Scientific Data Management
  • SM 502.7 - Fundamental Science Practices: Metadata for USGS Scientific Information Products including Data
  • SM 502.8 - Fundamental Science Practices: Review and Approval of Scientific Data for Release
  • SM 502.9 - Fundamental Science Practices: Preservation Requirements for Digital Scientific Data


USGS Data Release Resources 

Related Trainings


Elements of a Data Release

Diagram of the elements of a USGS data release: data, metadata, digital object identifier, IPDS, USGS dataset repository, SDC
A graphic of the seven elements of data release listed on this page.

What constitutes a release of USGS scientific data within USGS?

1. Data Management Plan (DMP)

2. Scientific Data

3. FGDC-Compliant Metadata

4. USGS Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

5. Reviews of Data and Metadata

6. An Acceptable Data Repository

7. Metadata Available in the USGS Science Data Catalog


Data Management Plan (DMP) 

Cartoon of a personified data management plan
A cartoon representation of a Data Management Plan.

For every project, the USGS requires a data management plan. This plan should be written prior to beginning project work, and updated throughout the project. A data management plan focuses on how the data will be handled throughout the project. For example, how will the data be obtained or collected? What is the schedule and budget for data collection? How will the data be quality checked? How will the data be stored, accessed, and protected? A good data management plan provides a strategy for how you will answer all of these questions. Learn more about DMPs at Plan > Data Management Plans.






Scientific Data 

Screencapture of a comma-separated values (CSV) formatted file.
Screencapture of a comma-separated values (CSV) formatted file.

Ensure that your data is in open format (CSV, ASCII, GIF, NetCDF, GeoTiff, etc.) to ensure longevity. The data can be released separately or alongside the publication of the scholarly journal it supported. Learn more about file format options and best practices at Acquire > File Formats.







FGDC-Compliant Metadata 

Screenshot of the Metadata Wizard 2.0
The MetadataWizard is a useful tool designed to facilitate FGDC metadata creation for spatial and non-spatial data. Learn more about the MetadataWizard.

Metadata describes information about data, such that the data can be understood, re-used, and integrated with other data. Information described in a metadata record includes where the data were collected, who is responsible for the data, why the data were created, and how the data are organized. Learn more about metadata creation at Describe > Metadata.

Once you have created metadata, it needs to:




USGS Digital Object Identifier (DOI) 

Persistent Identifiers are globally unique numeric and/or character strings that enables a user to access a digital resource via a permanent, long-term link. While there are several standard persistent identifier systems, the USGS uses Digital Object Identifiers (DOI) for its information products. All data being released in USGS must have DOIs. Digital Object Identifiers are especially useful when citing your data. Like a publication, cite and receive credit for your data. Learn more about DOIs at Publish/Share > Digital Object Identifiers.

Once you have created a digital object identifier, it needs to:

  • appear in your metadata record
  • be included in your publication as a data citation, if it applies
  • managed in the USGS Asset Identifier Service (AIS), if the data location changes


Reviews of Data and Metadata

Screenshot of Data Release Checklist for Center Directors
Data Release Checklist for Center Directors

Any data approved for release by USGS, whether provided to support a scientific publication or for use by the public or by cooperators, must be reviewed and approved. Review is necessary to ensure that the data are well documented and are complete, consistent, accurate, and precise as needed to achieve the goals for which they were created. 


Both metadata and data must be reviewed. The reviews may be carried out by one or more people, but reviewers will need to examine both data and metadata in order to understand the data and to ensure that the metadata accurately describe the data. Metadata, data review documents, and reconciliations, are maintained in an internal USGS system.


Data Release Review Checklists 

A number of checklists are available to help data authors, reviewers, and USGS Center Directors as they work through the review process:



An Acceptable Data Repository 

A ScienceBase item.
ScienceBase is a certified USGS Trusted Digital Repository, making it a common location to store and maintain USGS data (Public domain).

Data funded by the USGS must be released on a government server. This can take the form of an approved data application or a repository. Regardless, the release point should represent the components of a USGS “Trusted Digital Repository." Data releases in USGS will not all look the same.

USGS ScienceBase offers one possible way to store and maintain your data, and offers assistance in data release.

See USGS ScienceBase Data Release FAQs.

Learn more about data repositories at Preserve > Repositories.


Metadata Available in the USGS Science Data Catalog 

Screenshot of the SDC homepage
The USGS Science Data Catalog provides a complete list of official USGS data products (Public domain).

Your released data must be shared with the public and research communities through the USGS Science Data Catalog. This metadata catalog provides seamless access to USGS research and monitoring data from across the nation. Users have the ability to search, browse, or use a map-based interface to discover data. Data providers are assured the USGS Science Data Catalog meets White House Open Data reporting requirements for USGS; provides a Search and Discovery Tool that allows for metadata retrieval, visualization, download, and linking back to original data providers; offers a single source for USGS to serve its metadata to,, and OMB; helps ensure that USGS metadata meet requirements.

Learn more about the Science Data Catalog and how to submit your metadata record at Publish/Share > Data Catalogs.

The latest USGS Science Data Catalog (SDC) now requires that every metadata record be assigned a unique persistent identifier (PID), so that records can be individually tracked in both the SDC and the downstream federal catalogs for uniqueness, provenance, and versioning. The metadata PID must be unique, registered in the USGS Persistent Identifier Registration (PIR) Tool, and must be placed in a specific location in the CSDGM or ISO XML record. Depending upon the repository selected, the metadata PID may need to be assigned by the metadata author prior to deposit in the repository, or it may be assigned by the repository staff as part of the finalization of the data release. Email the SDM team for information regarding responsible party for metadata PID registration and insertion in the final XML file.


Examples of Data Releases Across USGS 

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Fitting it all together: 

Figuring out a workflow for data release in USGS can be interesting. Here is an example workflow for authors using ScienceBase to release their data:

Workflow diagram for completing a data release in ScienceBase
ScienceBase Data Release WorkflowPage last updated 6/21/21.