Frequently Asked Questions

Data, Tools, and Technology

The USGS has developed many tools and techniques for analyzing data and specialized websites for sharing information and products with the public.

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CSV of data dictionary used to create structured metadata record
Metadata for publications authored by USGS scientists can be found on the USGS Publications Warehouse. Metadata for USGS data can be found on the USGS Science Data Catalog or on the repository serving the data. USGS data that predate 2000 might not have metadata. Learn more: USGS Data Management: Metadata/Documentation
Screen shot of the National Land Cover Dataset
Data are observations or measurements (unprocessed or processed) represented as text, numbers, or multimedia. A dataset is a structured collection of data generally associated with a unique body of work. A database is an organized collection of data stored as multiple datasets, that are generally stored and accessed electronically from a computer...
Tree shrew cover page for Journal of Mammalogy
Publishing in outside journals by USGS scientists allows the research, including its scientific and practical contributions, to be disseminated to others in a particular field. This makes scientific researchers and practitioners with similar interests aware of new knowledge in their field, and it helps to advance knowledge and its application....
Idaho Water Science Center publications
The primary USGS publication series include: Fact Sheet General Information Product   Circular Professional Paper Scientific Investigations Report Scientific Investigations Map Data Report Techniques and Methods Open-File Report Learn more: USGS Manual: USGS Publication series USGS Series Descriptions
USGS staff reviewing  a map
A peer-reviewed publication is also sometimes referred to as a scholarly publication. The peer-review process subjects an author's scholarly work, research, or ideas to the scrutiny of others who are experts in the same field (peers) and is considered necessary to ensure academic scientific quality.  Learn more: USGS Manual: Peer Review
Embudo Gage Graph, NMWSC
Scientific data obtained through USGS funding are the property of the Federal Government and as such are Federal records. USGS scientific data are made available publicly at no cost and are considered to be in the public domain except where access must be restricted because of security, privacy, confidentiality, or other constraints. If you can’t...
books bookshelf
No, Federal employees are prohibited from endorsing commercial products. Learn more: U.S. Government Ethics: Use of Title or Agency’s Name
USGS Publications spread out on a table
All USGS-authored publications (whether published internally or externally) receive a minimum of two peer reviews, a supervisory review, and final clearance by a Bureau approving official to ensure that all related USGS and Federal policies have been followed. Additional reviews might also be needed, including editorial review by the USGS Science...
Flood-inundation map from coastal water-surface elevation data, Hurricane Harvey
All USGS products and publications are in the public domain. Most are readily available for free download on our website. Before launching a potentially time-consuming Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, make sure that the information you need cannot be easily obtained by immediate means. Visit the USGS website, explore our FOIA Reading...
Books on a shelf
There are several ways to submit a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request: Submit a request through the National FOIA Portal. Use the Department of the Interior’s FOIA Request Form. Email your request to foia@usgs.gov. Put “Freedom of Information Act Request” in the subject line. Write a letter to the USGS FOIA Office using one of the...
Two women working at a computer, turned to face the camera
As the Nation’s largest water, earth, and biological science and civilian mapping agency, we have numerous types of products. Most of these--including data, tools, maps, and publications--are publicly available through our website. Almost all digital materials can be downloaded at no cost to the public.    For information about the availability of...
Nich Benson - Lab Notes
While you are not required to give a reason for your request, you should be as specific as possible when describing the records that you seek. That will produce faster and better results. Phrases like “any and all” can significantly delay the processing time and potentially increase your processing fee. Prior to submitting your request, we suggest...