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USGS Science Data Exit Survey

An Exit survey is an interview conducted with departing employee, just before they leave. By filling out the exit survey, it provides for an opportunity to document data and information created by the employee, as well as to transfer knowledge and experience.


    When people leave their job, knowledge about their day-to-day activities, the information they have created, and contacts they have developed, are frequently lost. This is even more of an issue when it comes to science agencies like the USGS. The research a person has conducted - their findings, their hypotheses, their observations - these are items that can be unique to an individual and often irreplaceable. Without proper procedures in place to help capture this knowledge, much of this is frequently lost as it cannot be located or there is no documentation that accompanies the information. Often, we consider ourselves fortunate if the departing employee remembers to leave boxes with someone before they walk out the door. Unfortunately, these boxes are frequently forgotten, and eventually moved to storage rooms – or the garbage – without any idea of what information is contained in them. How can we make this situation better?

    The USGS Science Data Exit Survey is a way to collect information from employees about their data and information before they leave. The exit survey form, which is available for download above, can be filled out to document details such as where data and information is located, how to access the data, what limitations there are, and who is responsible for the data after the person leaves. The objective of this survey is that even if there are boxes are left behind in someone’s office, or data from a previous employee need to be located, these forms will give the USGS a way to find and use that information.

    The Science Data Exit Survey form was developed by a group comprised of personnel from across the Survey, with diverse science and technical backgrounds and with varying data management capabilities available in their offices. The goal was to ensure that the  form will help support a full range of circumstances across the USGS, from science centers who have little to no data management or IT support in their office, to those who have access to help from many relevant areas.


    Benefits of the Survey 

    A benefit of the form is that all relevant information about data will be available in one location, which will make it easy for people to access the information quickly and provide for a more complete picture of the data. The form is comprehensive in nature so a wide variety of personnel and groups can benefit from the information it contains – co-workers, supervisors, Science Center Directors, IT personnel, data managers, Records Management personnel, library staff, publication service centers, and lab managers.


    Form Design 

    The information requested in the form is intended to ensure that the value and scientific legacy of any work conducted at the USGS continues well into the future. The questions asked are necessary for learning about science data and related documents, both of which will help the USGS preserve and provide access to the data.

    The form comprises three sections:

    1. introductory information ("General Information"),
    2. information about the dataset ("Dataset 1"), and
    3. a listing of Web sites where you can go for more information about the questions listed in this document ("Where do I go for help?").

    For the "Dataset 1" section, there are entries for both electronic data and for physical data. The intent of listing each is to ensure the appropriate information pertaining to that specific dataset is captured. As noted earlier, the form is intended to be as comprehensive as possible, and so includes questions that may or may not be relevant. For those who have more than one dataset to be documented, simply copy the set of questions listed under "Dataset 1."

    The form can be filled out either by the departing employee or given as an interview by a separate person. If this form is to be filled out by someone other than the employee who is leaving, consider supplying the form to them before the interview, so that the employee can have an idea of what information will be asked.