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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Image: Records Preservation
Information/data that is NOT covered by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) includes: Non-agency records and personal records. Public requests for access to physical artifacts or scientific samples (e.g. core samples, sediment, rocks, fossils, specimen samples, blood samples). Access to some samples can be arranged through our laboratories....
Photo showing a variety of USGS publications
If you can't find a known publication in our USGS Publications Warehouse, first try contacting the Publications Warehouse Team. If a print copy is readily available to them, they’re sometimes able to scan it and post it online for free download within a few days. If that doesn’t work, chances are good that the publication can be requested through...
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...
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
Since 1967, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has provided the public the right to request access to records from any federal agency.  It is often described as the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government. Federal agencies are required to disclose any information requested under the FOIA unless it falls under one of nine...
USGS scientists sample a soil core for stable-isotope analyses, Amargosa Desert, Nevada
Unsolicited proposals for both research and research-related awards are a valuable means for the USGS to obtain innovative methods or approaches from outside the government to accomplish our mission. In order to be considered, proposals must: Be innovative and unique, Be independently derived and developed (prepared without government supervision...
Screenshot of USGS website showing list of partner organizations
Per Department of the Interior policy, we do not provide links to websites outside the federal government unless they are official research partners of the USGS. 
Water Quality Watch website screenshot
The USGS does not require a specific format when citing our websites, but here are some suggestions: U.S. Geological Survey, 2017, Earthquake Facts and Statistics, accessed March 22, 2018 at URL https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/browse/stats.php U.S. Geological Survey, 2018, Mineral Resources Data System: U.S. Geological Survey database...
Ray Copper Mine
After 85 years of service, the U.S. Bureau of Mines (USBM) closed in 1996. Certain functions, such as the collection, analysis, and dissemination of minerals information, have been returned to the U.S. Geological Survey. For information on former USBM programs or publications, please see the following sources: The National Technical Reports...
Samples to OGRL thumbnail
A soil survey is the systematic description, classification, and mapping of soils in an area. They are published by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), formerly known as the Soil Conservation Service. NRCS soil surveys are available from several sources: Some are on the NRCS website. Published soil surveys can be found at some...
Alder Fire in Yellowstone National Park
GeoMAC only displays perimeter data as they are submitted. Since data are not received for all fires, you might not be able to view perimeters for every fire.
Wildlife in the distance behind burned forests in California
In order to give fire managers near real-time information, wildfire perimeter data in GeoMAC  is updated daily based upon input from incident intelligence sources, GPS data, and infrared (IR) imagery from fixed wing and satellite platforms. More information about wildfires is available from the National Interagency Fire Center.