Due to a lapse in appropriations, the majority of USGS websites may not be up to date and may not reflect current conditions. Websites displaying real-time data, such as Earthquake and Water and information needed for public health and safety will be updated with limited support. Additionally, USGS will not be able to respond to inquiries until appropriations are enacted.  For more information, please see www.doi.gov/shutdown

Data Management


Disposition is the final stage in the records lifecycle, resulting in destruction of temporary records or the legal and physical transfer of permanent records to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

What is a Federal Record?

What is a Federal Record?

A Federal record is any recorded information documenting the work of your office, regardless of who created it or how the information was recorded. USGS scientific data are considered Federal records.

What is NOT a Federal Record?

What is NOT a Federal Record?

Duplicate copies of records kept as convenience copies or stock copies of datasets and publications are not Federal records. Likewise, personal files--files that do not document government agency work--are not Federal records.


Federal law requires the proper safeguarding of Federal records and makes it a crime to destroy, alter, manipulate or remove them without the approval of NARA through the USGS Records Officer. Creation and use of any record reflects an investment of organizational assets. Over the past century, the USGS has developed many scientific and historically valuable records which cannot be recreated if they are lost or destroyed. Some of these records are and will become a permanent part of the records of the government to be preserved by NARA for historians and researchers. These records document some of the most important products of the USGS - earth science information, which will help future generations build on the scientific foundations laid by our scientists in the Bureau's first 125 years.

In addition, the USGS creates many short and long term temporary records, some of which can be destroyed in a few years while others may have a lifecycle of 100 years. It is important to understand what a record is and how to manage it through its creation.


Establish and Use Retention Schedules 

See the U.S. Geological Survey Listing of all Records Disposition Schedules to ensure that a records schedule has been identified for the series. Each "100" series listed describes related records by topic. Records not listed are treated like permanent records until they are scheduled through the USGS Records Officer and NARA.


Update/Modify Data 

  • Keep it current.
  • Update Metadata as appropriate for significant changes, as determined by business rules [see Describe > Metdata for more information].

Creating quality data is a continual process; not a static, one-time-only process. If it is determined that the data no longer meet the user's needs, the old data may be archived and new data planned for, acquired, and maintained.


Document the Destruction of a Record 

When destroying documents, your office must complete a Records Move Request Tracking system entry along with other records disposition documentation. This will enable USGS to track all destroyed records in the event of requests from Congress, public, or other interested parties seeking these records. Destruction and applying disposition are all suspended if there is active or a reasonable expectation of litigation.


Where can I go for more help? 

Contact your local Records Management Contact or the USGS Records Management Program at recman@usgs.gov.


Best Practices 

  • Determine records requirements - by law, no Federal record can be destroyed without authorization from the Archivist of the United States, and the vehicle for obtaining the authorization is a National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) approved records disposition schedule through the USGS Records Officer.
  • Establish records retention schedules for data that includes metadata describing the data and system documentation.
  • Organize and file routinely to facilitate a complete record for ease of applying the records schedules.
  • When data are significantly updated or modified, corresponding metadata must also be updated.
  • Access to data must be restricted as appropriate.
  • If a record is destroyed, be sure to document it in the USGS Records Move Request Tracking System.


What the U.S. Geological Survey Manual Requires: 

By law, no Federal record can be destroyed without authorization from the Archivist of the United States, and the vehicle for obtaining the authorization is a National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) approved records disposition schedule. The NARA-approved USGS General Records Disposition Schedule incorporates all records descriptions and dispositions contained in the NARA General Records Schedules (36 CFR 1225) which are pertinent to USGS operations.


The USGS Survey Manual chapter SM 431.1 - Records Management Program describes the USGS Records Management Program objectives and assigns responsibilities for records management.


The USGS Survey Manual chapter SM 502.9 - Fundamental Science Practices: Preservation Requirements for Digital Scientific Data requires that data be preserved in accordance with the USGS records disposition requirements (http://www.usgs.gov/usgs-manual/schedule/) and the Federal Records Act 36 CFR 1220.14.