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Data Sharing Agreements

Data sharing descriptions could be included in any memorandum of understanding, memorandum of agreement, letter of intent, information sharing access agreement, or any other form of agreement that is used to facilitate a one-time or enduring exchange of or access to data for operational or reporting purposes, including for limited periods of time.


A data sharing agreement (DSA) is any form of agreement that is used to facilitate a one-time or enduring exchange of or access to data for operational or reporting purposes, including for limited periods of time.

When sharing data with DOI partners, the Department provides a specific template which is named “Data Sharing Agreement”. Data Sharing Agreements established between DOI bureaus and offices, and any external parties may use an existing template or alternate format provided that template contains the required sections and meets the policy requirements. Data assets already publicly available do not require bureaus or offices to enter into data sharing agreements.

When sharing data with non-DOI partners, a DSA can take the form of other agreement types. For instance, language specific to data sharing could be included in many types of agreements, such as a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), Data Use License Agreements (DULA), or Data Sharing Agreements (DSA). Other types of agreements that may be used to share data are listed in the sections below.


When to Use Data Sharing Agreements:

  • Proprietary or sensitive data are being shared across organizations
  • There is a need to document which organization will be responsible for releasing data and what role the other organization(s) should take in assisting with that release
  • There is a need to document the acceptable use of preliminary or provisional data by a partner or collaborator
  • One or more of the organizations require a data sharing agreement.

When Data Sharing Agreements are Not Required: 

  • When meeting a federal mandatory, time-sensitive data production/call related to legal, investigative, security, compliance.  These cases may include, but are not limited to litigation, audits, administrative, or congressional requests.   
  • When responding to Federal requests from the OIG, GAO, Congress, DOJ, or Treasury.  Exceptions for cases not specifically identified above must be approved through the ACDO. 
  • Requests from State, Local, Tribal or other Governmental Agencies including Federal agencies not specifically stated above require a DSA. 

When NOT to Use Data Sharing Agreements:

USGS may not share or exchange records or data that are:


Goals of Data Sharing Agreements Are:  

  1. Address challenges with sharing data with partners and streamline the agreement process.

  2. Promote bureau/office as a steward for the data, to encourage sharing with partners while protecting the data commensurate with its sensitivity.

  3. Ensure there is a mechanism to address data quality with those who use the data.

  4. Meet goals for the FAIR Principles in the DOI Data Strategy.

  5. Provide a mechanism to share sensitive data and ensure all parties are aware of federal safeguarding requirements specific to data being shared.

  6. Data Sharing Agreements are not intended to replace Information Security Agreements which often compliment the DSA.


Types of Data Sharing Agreements 

All data sharing agreements must be reviewed by the Chief Data Officer (CDO), or Mike Frame.

Required Coordination:

The DSA process will have an appropriate level of transparency and coordination to ensure substantive policy, privacy, legal, business, technical, resource, security, and other operational concerns are identified and properly resolved.  All DSA's will be developed and negotiated by the Executive Data Steward for the program managing the data or by their delegated representative.

The following decision diagram shows the review, approval, and issuance process for a DSA:

Workflow for DSA review, approval, and issuance

For other types of agreements, as shown below, they may also need to be reviewed and approved by the Office of Policy and Analysis (OPA), prior to execution (signature by USGS official), subject to the procedure specific to each agreement type. For guidance on review requirements, see the Survey Manual Chapter 205.13.

When sharing data with DOI partners, the Department provides a specific template which is named “Data Sharing Agreement”.

When funds will be transferred from an external partner to USGS, one of the following templates may be used. 

  • Collaborative Agreements  
  • Inter-Agency Agreements 
  • Technical Assistance Agreements 
  • Cooperative Research and Development Agreements 

When no funds will be transferred, the following agreements may be used. 

  • Memorandum of Understanding 
  • Data Use License Agreement 
  • Collaborative Agreement 
  • Technical Assistance Agreement 
  • Cooperative Research and Development Agreements 
  • External Agency's Data Sharing Agreement 

When funds will be transferred by USGS to an external entity, refer to the Office of Acquisition and Grants (OAG) for guidance. 

When the partner is a foreign entity, agreements may need to go through the USGS Office of International Programs (OIP). OIP can advise on whether a foreign partner requires an international agreement or can use a Technical Assistance Agreement.

There are several types of agreements to facilitate data sharing. For more guidance on the DOI Data Sharing Agreement template, contact Mike Frame.

For more guidance on other agreement templates that can incorporate data sharing provisions for non-DOI partners, visit OPA’s SharePoint site or email:

Following is a brief summary of agreement types that can also incorporate data sharing provisions: 

Collaborative Agreements (Collab) 

Collaborative Agreements are short-term agreements; they are similar to a Technical Assistance Agreement that allows the USGS to provide more focused technical or research efforts to another party with or without reimbursement. Typically, intellectual property is not anticipated, and data rights are not a concern.  

Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADA) 

A CRADA is an agreement between one or more Federal laboratories and one or more non-Federal parties under which the Government provides resources toward the conduct of specified research or development efforts. The partners can agree to share patent and intellectual property rights in any manner agreeable to both parties.  

Data Sharing Agreements (DSA) 

Data sharing permits DOI and its bureaus and offices to provide access to their sensitive data (see definitions for Controlled Unclassified Information and Personally Identifiable Information in the Template Guide) in a controlled manner, usually within Federal agencies, among and outside of DOI bureaus and offices, research institutions, and mission related partners (including non-federal organizations) to help achieve mission requirements. 

Data Use License Agreements (DULA) 

USGS will utilize the Data Use License Agreement (DULA) when a Collaborator is providing confidential or proprietary data or a dataset that requires non-disclosure to the public and the USGS is using the data or dataset to accomplish a statement of work.   

Interagency Agreements (IAA) 

An IAA is used for federal-to-federal agreements with funds-in to USGS. Since the introduction of the G-invoicing System, all federal agencies must use forms 7600A/B. 

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) 

An MOU is agreement to exchange information or coordinate programs to optimize the benefits from each party’s efforts and neither party exchanges funds, personnel, property, services, or makes any kind of financial commitment or obligation. 

Technical Assistance Agreements (TAA) 

The TAA is a short-term agreement that allows a federal laboratory and its researchers to provide more focused technical or research efforts to a non-Federal party with or without reimbursement.  Typically, intellectual property is not anticipated. 

Data Sharing Agreement Examples and Templates 


What the U.S. Geological Survey Manual Requires: 

The USGS Survey Manual Chapter 500.26 – Domestic Memorandum of Understanding states that, ‘if applicable, include language [in MOUs] such as:  All data and information produced as a result of this MOU shall be available for use by the USGS in connection with its ongoing programs.  This includes publication of results where appropriate, except in cases prohibited by proprietary and security considerations.’

The USGS Survey Manual Chapter 500.20, 6.D states that 'USGS adheres to 15 U.S.C. 3710a (Federal Technology Transfer Act) by protecting trade secrets, commercial or financial information, and privacy concerns. Information may include names of other Parties, funding amounts, the description of work, and the term of the Agreement. USGS Partners may want this information protected, since it may pose a negative impact to their operations. Therefore, the USGS cannot released this information to the public without the other Party’s written permission.'

The USGS Survey Manual Chapter 205.13, establishes delegations of authority necessary to approve agreements and accept donations and funds coming into the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) from outside sources. 


Page last updated 7/8/24.