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What are some reasons to not use a public repository for developing software? [140]

Department of the Interior, including USGS, applies strict requirements and platform authorizations for sharing software in public repositories. To avoid potential violations, policy-compliant and secure internal code repositories are available for sharing and releasing software. [Read more]

In general, the open sharing of ideas and code development for both data management and analytical use is becoming the norm across the scientific community. This rationale is supported in the USGS software release IM policy through the concepts of provisional software release, including the use of publicly available repositories (IM OSQI 2019-01). However, all cloud services used in the DOI require FedRAMP authorization. The DOI or USGS can discontinue use of any service that does not meet Federal requirements. In addition, the scientific software IM and related USGS policies contain strict requirements for release. Sharing software in public repositories without adhering to these policy requirements may result in one or more of the following violations:

  • Release of unreviewed scientific interpretive information may violate USGS FSP requirements.
  • Release of scientific results through an informal venue may obviate the ability to publish that material through some external publications (such as peer-reviewed journals).
  • Informal release of information removes the Bureau’s ability to later withhold pre-decisional material sought under Freedom of Information Act requests.
  • Release of security sensitive information or personally identifiable information would violate the USGS Privacy Act Program.

To avoid these and potentially other violations, the software developer may use an internal code repository, such as the internal USGS Git hosting platform, USGS OpenSource GitLab, or USGS InnerSource GitLab, which can be restricted to a specific group of collaborators.