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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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 the address on...
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...
Image shows the front and back of a Liberty Head Dollar Coin
By law, the USGS is authorized to charge Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) processing fees to requesters in order to recover the direct costs of search, review, and duplication of requested records. The fees depend on the requester category into which you fall. If the total costs of supplying the requested information is less than $50, the USGS...
Image: On File at the Field Records Collection
Yes, you can request a waiver of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) processing fees. Under the FOIA, fee waivers are limited to situations in which a requester can show that the disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations and activities...
Image: Railroad Tracks
The USGS uses a multi-track processing system. We distinguish simple requests from more complex ones based on the estimated number of workdays needed to process the request.  Factors include the number of pages involved in processing the request and the need for consultations with other federal agencies. Requests within each track are processed...
New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety - Office of the Attorney General (OAG)
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests are not confidential. Once a FOIA request is received, it becomes a public record of the USGS. If the request contains personally identifying information or the request is deemed “sensitive,” we may redact information under FOIA Exemption 6 (personal privacy). The identity of the FOIA requester does not...
helicopter with sensor
Yes, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) covers contract-related requests. Prior to submitting your request, check USAspending.gov to determine what information about the contract is already publicly available. If you decide to submit a FOIA request, please provide the award ID number or the name of the awardee so that we can quickly search for...
Screenshot of form with search window for FOIA request number
Check the status of your FOIA request using the Department of the Interior’s Track Your FOIA Request webpage. Additionally, you can check the status of your FOIA request by contacting the USGS FOIA office using any of the following methods: Email: foia@usgs.gov Phone: (443) 498-5521 Mail: U.S. Geological Survey, 5522 Research Park Drive, Baltimore...
Graphic - Archives
FOIA Exemption 5 (deliberative process privilege) applies to inter-agency or intra-agency records where, for instance, there is a work product that is in draft format or documents that contain deliberations between parties leading up to a decision (including what to publish or not to publish in one of our products). The purpose of the privilege is...
sample storage
The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) offers mediation services to resolve disputes between FOIA requesters and agencies as an alternative to litigation. OGIS also reviews agency FOIA compliance, policies, and procedures and makes recommendations for improvement. The Office is a part of the National Archives and Records...