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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Satellite image of ice breaking in Antarctica
View or download USGS satellite imagery for Antarctica using the Landsat Image Mosaic of Antarctica (LIMA). The Interactive Atlas in the menu on the right is helpful for finding individual features. Higher-resolution satellite imagery is also available via  EarthExplorer  or  LandsatLook.  The USGS does not have a comprehensive photographic...
2019 California wildfires
The USGS operated the Geospatial Multi-Agency Coordination (GeoMAC) website from 2000-2020. GeoMAC was the public face of all wildland fire perimeters. That site was shut down on April 30, 2020 and responsibility for wildfire information was transferred to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC).  The GeoMAC mapping application at "
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. Those datasets are generally stored and accessed electronically from a...
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. USGS...
Idaho Water Science Center publications
The primary USGS publication series include: Fact Sheet (for general audiences) General Information Product  (for general audiences) Circular (for general audiences) Professional Paper Scientific Investigations Report Scientific Investigations Map Data Report Techniques and Methods Open-File Report Learn more: USGS Manual: USGS Publication series...
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 Put “Freedom of Information Act Request” in the subject line. Write a letter to the USGS FOIA Office using one of the...