Scientific Collections

Guide to Planning for and Managing Scientific Working Collections in the U.S. Geological Survey

USGS scientists collect a range of organic and inorganic sample and specimen types in the conduct of USGS scientific investigations, which constitute scientific working collections.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) conducts objective scientific research in ecosystems, land resources, energy and mineral assessments, natural hazards, and water resources to inform effective decision making and planning. USGS scientists collect a range of organic and inorganic sample and specimen types in the conduct of USGS scientific investigations, which constitute scientific working collections. 

The USGS has a mission that is unique among Department of Interior bureaus-to conduct observational and hypothesis-driven science to meet the needs of the USGS, Department of Interior management agencies and the public. Scientific working collections are potential public assets, and the USGS has a responsibility to plan for and manage these collections during the research phase and to determine the appropriate disposition of these collections when they are no longer needed for USGS scientific investigations.

Purpose of this Guidance Document

This document provides guidance to USGS scientists, and information to the general public, regarding planning for, acquiring, using, evaluating, and releasing USGS scientific working collections and scientific products that may come from those collections. This guidance addresses policy in IM CSS 2019-01 USGS Scientific Working Collections Management.

Updates

This guidance is periodically updated to best inform USGS researchers and stakeholders of exisitng and developing strategies to address and implement the policy provided in IM CSS 2019-01.  Major updates are documented here:

  • 6/10/2019 - web page created
  • 7/22/2019 - update includes changes from the USGS Collections Steering Committee that incorporate feedback from USGS science centers and collections managers
  • 9/23/2019 - FAQs were removed from this page and added to the page Frequently Asked Questions
  • 10/2/2019 - edits were made to correct grammar and improve clarity

Overview

This document covers all types of USGS collected objects that form scientific working collections. Additionally, this plan applies to all working collections acquired for USGS scientific research, such as those produced in whole or in part by the USGS, contract employees, financial assistance awardees, other grantees, and other contractor entities where the samples were collected and (or) produced with complete or partial USGS funding, unless otherwise prohibited by law, regulation or policy. This guidance builds on existing USGS policy that was formulated to implement the National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program Act of 2005 (42 U.S.C. 15908; P.L. 109-58, Sec. 351), with mandates to:

  • Archive geological, geophysical, and engineering data, maps, well logs, and samples; 

  • Provide a national catalog of these archived materials; and 

  • Provide technical and financial assistance to State geological surveys and relevant bureaus in the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) for managing their archived materials. 

What is a Scientific Working Collection in the USGS?

The vast majority of collections maintained by USGS are scientific working collections because they are assembled for scientific research. These are defined according to the Department of Interior Departmental Manual Part 411 as: 

“Organic or inorganic specimens and items maintained by bureau/office [henceforth USGS] programs that are not intended for long-term preservation and care as museum property due to their expendable nature. Working collections are intended for use during education or ongoing research and may be consumed or discarded during the analysis process according to bureau policy. Some specimens and items may subsequently be designated museum property. Working collections will be discarded when it is determined there is no longer a need for the collection for future research or education or upon completion of the ongoing research according to standards set in bureau/office policy.”

Hereafter, all references to working collections in this document specifically mean scientific working collections.

Working Collection Lifecycle

Planning, acquisition, use, and maintenance of working collections for scientific research are steps conducted within the context of the scientific research process and workflows. When conducting research that involves a working collection, the entire lifecycle–from planning to final disposition–of the collected material needs to be accounted for. For new USGS working collections, workflows and procedures conducted within the stages of a working collection lifecycle (Figure 1) will ensure proper management of collected materials and their documentation.

Figure 1.

Flow chart diagram showing the USGS working collections lifecycle.

Steps in the USGS working collections lifecycle.

Overview of Working Collection Lifecycle Steps

Planning - The Planning stage of the working collection lifecycle should be conducted as part of the broader context of scientific research project planning. At this stage, planning for the entire lifecycle of the working collection needs to be conducted to consider what the collection will entail, how it will be maintained and used, what will happen to the collection after the project ends, and what to anticipate in terms of needs, challenges and outputs of the collection. An important component of planning is the development of a Collection Plan as a step in the collection workflow and is developed as part of the Project Work Plan and Data Management Plan, which details how the collected material will be acquired, maintained, and handled after the research project is completed.

Acquisition - Acquisition of the physical samples that constitute the collection is conducted according to field and/or laboratory protocols as detailed in the Project Work Plan. Use of best practices for sample type (from community-based standards) for collecting, handling, and processing of collected material during the collecting process will help ensure the integrity of the working collection for possible subsequent use in research activities.

Use - Use of collected material in research activities can involve conducting observations, measurements, consumptive procedures, laboratory analyses, and other interpretive research uses with some or all the collected material as part of the research process. If all collected material is consumed (destroyed) during analysis and use, this stage will become the final stage in the lifecycle of the consumed collection. Any collected material that remains after the working collection has been used in the research project will continue to the next step of the working collection lifecycle.

Evaluation - Evaluation of a working collection involves determining whether a working collection is still needed and/or remains useful for research activities of the USGS. Evaluation is conducted after the project is completed for which the working collection was created, as specified in the Collection Plan. Legacy collections also require evaluation. Evaluation will result in a decision on the fate of the working collection from that point forward.

Disposition - Disposition, in the context of this guidance document, refers to what happens to the working collection after the research project is completed and involves implementing decisions made during the Evaluation stage. In this stage, all or parts of the remaining working collection can be destroyed, donated or transferred to another organization, retained and catalogued within the USGS, or accessioned as USGS museum property (which requires additional steps and must be approved by the USGS Collections Steering Committee and USGS National Museum Curator).

Manage Quality and Documentation - Managing quality of a working collection and documenting all methods, procedures, and activities related to a collection is a cross-cutting element that applies to all stages of the collection lifecycle from planning to disposition of a working collection. Documenting planned and implemented collecting and preservation methods, procedures, workflows, protocol deviations, location, and disposition of samples and specimens at every stage of the working collection lifecycle (see Figure 1) in sufficient detail is critical to the production of sound science. This includes being able to track the contents (e.g., specimens, associated materials and information) of the collection and understanding how the collection was created and maintained. All documentation can be used to develop standard metadata (information about the collection) that describes the working collection and its contents to potential users both within and outside the collecting institution.

Detailed Lifecycle Steps: the USGS Collections Workflow

A workflow for the management of working collections within the context of the lifecycle is described in the sections that follow. This workflow is applied at different stages of the working collection lifecycle to existing and new working collections. Existing collection may be collections currently in use by active research and legacy or orphan collections that are no longer in use and are in need of evaluation. For these existing collections, the workflow starts at the Evaluate stage (Figure 2) since the initial lifecycle stages of existing and legacy collections occurred prior to implementation of the USGS Policy on Scientific Working Collections. For new working collections, the workflow starts with the Create stage (Figure 2) where collection planning is integrated with the Project Work Plan and Data Management Plan.

Figure 2.

This figure shows the primary steps in the workflow for existing and new working collections within the USGS.

Steps in the USGS collections management workflow (version 4). This figure shows the primary steps in the workflow for existing and new working collections within the USGS. Collection Evaluation is the starting point where existing collections are evaluated for subsequent action.

(Public domain.)

Steps for Existing Collections

Existing working collections are materials that are either currently involved in USGS research activities or are in storage and in need of evaluating for subsequent disposition steps. These existing collections may not have a formal Collection Plan and are not required to as collections created prior to the release of USGS Survey Manual Instructional Memorandum IM CSS 2019-01. 

For existing working collections that are currently involved in research, USGS scientists are encouraged to consider the future evaluation and disposition stages of the lifecycle as research activities continue. Completing a Collection Plan and reading through the Evaluate stage guidance below may assist in consideration of future disposition status of collection materials. Once the Conduct Research phase is completed, data products and data releases can be generated (Make Data Available) and final evaluation and disposition of collection materials can be undertaken (Evaluate). 

For existing working collections that have been in long-term storage (as legacy or orphan collections), Evaluate is the next step. Stepping through the Evaluation Questions will help to determine suitable next steps based on the collection’s condition and value for future use.

Steps for New Collections

The following are the detailed steps for new working collections that USGS scientists are encouraged to follow as they plan new research that will involve the acquisition of collection material.

Create

As part of the Planning stage, a Collection Plan must be created as part of all USGS Project Work Plans when study objectives include the collection of materials, samples, or other objects from existing collections or from new research work areas. See below for instances where a collection plan is not needed. For Project Work Plans, the USGS requires that all planned research be described (USGS Survey Manual Chapter 502.2) and saved to an internal and permanent USGS system at Science Centers prior to the initiation of work. A Collection Plan and Data Management plan should be linked to the Project Work Plan and also saved to an internal and permanent file archive at USGS Science Center.  All of these plans may be updated throughout the duration of a project. 

When developing a Collection Plan, USGS employees should:

  • Determine if there are existing collections within USGS that could be used to address the research question being posed such that a new collection is not needed

  • Avoid accumulation of artifacts or specimens of general interest. The USGS has no mandate for museum functions and limited resources for the maintenance, display, and curation of museum objects

  • Limit collections to those that will inform objective-driven science detailed in the Project Work Plan

The Collection Plan details project and collection information for new materials being acquired or for samples being obtained from existing collections (see example Collection Plan template here). Basic necessary details of a Collection Plan include: 

  • Type, number, and volume of materials to be collected

  • Purpose of collection

  • Sample labeling and identification scheme

  • Description of spatial and temporal frame of the collection

  • Whether collecting permits or other permissions are needed

  • Identification of potential hazards (e.g. pathogens, invasive species, biological infestations, radioactivity, toxic chemicals) the samples may pose to humans, other organisms, or other working collections, and assuring actions for avoiding or mitigating those hazards

  • Methods of handling and storing the working collection during the research

  • Planned handling and disposition of samples from the collection (Destroy, Donate, Transfer, Retain & Catalog, or Accession as USGS Museum Property) after research objectives are met

  • Planned sharing of collection metadata describing the collection samples and the collection itself

  • Tracking of collected material and its associated documentation (e.g. field notes, photographs, maps, etc.)

  • Contact information for the responsible parties and positions

  • Budget for collection maintenance

When collected materials are consumed or destroyed during initial analysis, a simplified Collection Plan is all that is required to document the initial existence of the collection (see Collection Plan template).

A Collection Plan is not needed for some research activities. Documentation of these activities would be reported in Project Work Plans and scientific products, such as manuscripts and data releases, with reference to the source of the collection where samples were obtained. 

  • Adding materials to an existing collection that has a Collection Plan:  In this case, the existing Collection Plan can just be updated to reflect the new additions.

Acquire

Early phases of a research project often involve the acquisition of new samples and materials that are obtained according to methods and protocols described in the Collection Plan. Things to consider at this stage of the working collection lifecycle include:

  • Obtaining appropriate permits and other permissions

  • Avoiding or mitigating potential hazards that collected materials or their collection may pose to humans, other organisms, or other working collections. Examples include biosecurity (pathogens, invasive species), biological infestations, radioactive materials,  toxic chemicals

  • Thoroughly documenting acquisition steps and any deviations to the original Collection Plan in terms of collecting activities

  • Following recommended practices for appropriate collecting, transporting, storage, labeling, and management activities that are required during and soon after the acquisition of new collections and samples

  • Reporting collecting activities if required by funding or permitting agencies

  • Assigning unique identifiers such as International Geo Sample Numbers (IGSN) to every sample in a collection

In addition to the physical samples collected during a collecting event, other materials generated during a collecting event such as field notes, maps, images and collecting permits should be maintained for the duration of the working collection lifecycle. Maintaining this documentation helps ensure that information about the collecting event and collected material can later be associated with the working collection to facilitate its future use by project researchers and other potential users.

Conduct Research

Soon after the acquisition of the collection and during the initial phase of the Use stage, it is important to establish clear guidelines and procedures on the following: who can access the collection, how samples or specimens in the collection should be handled, what kinds of uses are allowed, and any other considerations to maintain collection integrity for the duration of the project and potentially thereafter should the collection be envisioned as a long-term resource. Recommended practices for handling, storage, labeling, and maintenance of the collection should be followed. 

Additional processing of collected material may be needed in order to prepare the samples for specific research uses. That processing, for example, may include extracting subsamples or parts of a collection, sorting materials, drying of samples, adding dyes or other reagents to materials to facilitate observation of certain characteristics, and other processing methods. Processing procedures conducted on the samples or specimens of the collection should be well documented. 

Once the samples are processed, they are then used in a variety of ways (e.g. making observations, taking measurements, conducting analytical testing, and many other procedures) to address the research question. During use of the collection in scientific research activities, there is a possibility that some or all of the collected material in the collection may be consumed or destroyed. If all the collected material in a collection is consumed during use of the collection and no physical samples remain, the Use stage of the working collection will be the final stage of the lifecycle. If collection materials persist following research, disposition of remaining samples should follow steps established in the Collection Plan or can be evaluated for subsequent steps (see Evaluate). 

As part of the Use stage of the working collection lifecycle, labels and IDs of materials in the collection are documented and tracked to ensure scientific reproducibility and reporting. Databases and spreadsheets may be created to track collection materials as well as data that is generated from the collection.  Associated documentation (e.g., field notes, photographs, maps) should also be linked to collection materials at this time for future reference. Any changes made to a working collection during this stage must also be documented (i.e., which parts of the collection were consumed vs. which remain intact).

Make Data Available

Documentation of collections and related data is essential to maintaining the integrity of USGS science products (USGS SM 502.5), and allows researchers to discover collections for additional investigations.

Evaluate

The Evaluate step is used for assessing possible next steps for existing collections or for evaluating working collections once the research project is completed. These steps should be spelled out in the Collection Plan, but in cases where next steps were never determined or need to be revisited, a collection Evaluation is necessary. The first possible outcome (Figure 2) may lead to a determination that additional research activities are needed on the collection (Conduct Research).  

Once all research activities are completed, the Evaluate step should result in one of the following five outcomes: destruction of materials that no longer have a value or potential use in USGS science, education, or historical documentation (Destroy), donation of materials that have educational value (Donate), transfer to the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) of the Smithsonian Institution (SI) (hereafter “NMNH”) or another institution (Transfer), retaining the working collection at USGS for further use (Retain & Catalog), or accessioning as USGS museum property (Accession as USGS Museum Property). 

The following collection types can be evaluated at this step:

  • Existing Working Collections that do not have a Collection Plan

  • Legacy or orphaned collections from scientists who are no longer working for the USGS

  • Working Collections held to ensure that no additional checks or analyses are required during the USGS Data Management step and release of science products (reports, data releases, etc.)

  • Working Collections for which all work is complete but scientists wish to further evaluate prior to subsequent steps (Destroy, Donate, Transfer, Retain & Catalog, or Accession as USGS Museum Property)

See the Evaluation Questions that can help guide the evaluation process for determining next steps for a collection.

Destroy

The Destroy step may arise through one or more of the following reasons: 

  • An accumulation of orphaned, legacy, and/or new scientific working collections that were never intended to be maintained for the long-term as described in the Collection Plan.

  • A determination as part of Evaluation that a collection is of minimal scientific value, damaged, compromised integrity, or no longer needed for investigations in progress. 

  • Materials can no longer be maintained by the USGS and are not of value to the NMNH or other suitable repository.

  • The collection is the subject of irreversible deterioration or infestation and may adversely affect facilities, employees or the condition of other materials in collections.

  • The collection does not meet the basic requirements to be usable (see 5-point Standard).

To initiate destruction of USGS collection material(s):

  • Ensure that all associated information, sample IDs, metadata and collection descriptions are complete.

  • Consult with researchers who have used the collection to ensure all information has been documented.

  • Adhere to personal and environmental safety and compliance when collection material contains contaminants and/or hazardous preservative materials. 

  • Consult USGS Safety Officers for appropriate destruction methods as needed before disposing of materials.

  • Apply appropriate disposal procedures such that collection material is not somehow reused, repurposed, or confused with active collection material.

  • Determine that the U.S. Geological Survey fully and legally owns the collection material(s). For example, are any parts of the collection from federally managed lands that have requirements for return of materials to those agencies?

Documenting destruction:

  • If the analytical or descriptive results of a collection result in a published dataset or document (report, journal article, etc.), a simplified Collection Plan must be completed to document metadata about the collection and describe all information that arose from the collection (reports, publications, maps, data releases, etc.). For legacy or orphaned collections, and collections that have been maintained and used across multiple studies, metadata describing the collection must be submitted to the National Digital Catalog. Single-study working collections that are to be destroyed following the original Collection Plan do not require registration in the National Digital Catalog.

  • Ensure information in the Collection Plan is complete and saved to a central and permanent file system at the USGS office or Science Center.

  • Complete form DI-103A and save to a central and permanent file system at the USGS office or Science Center.

Donate

Collections and/or parts of collections may be donated to bona fide educational entities that certify that the items will be used for scientific and/or technological training or research pursuant to the American Technological Preeminence (Stevenson-Wydler) Act of 1980 as amended (Pub.L. 96–480) (94 Stat. 2311).  USGS items that may be donated include those that do not meet the 5-point standard and that do not have iconic or historic value for the USGS (see Accession as USGS Museum Property) or scientific value to the USGS (see Retain & Catalog) or the NMNH (see Transfer). Donation of materials must be documented in the 9-064 form for excess property.

The items to be donated, including a complete list of what is being transferred, must be reported to USGS servicing property staff using form SF-120 (pursuant to the American Technological Preeminence (Stevenson-Wydler) Act of 1980 as amended ). Other information that must be included are the non-profit entity’s name, address, and 501(c)3 number, and the name, business telephone number, and email address of a contact person who represents the receiving entity.

Transfer

When a working collection is no longer needed to meet the USGS mission, ownership (which includes custody) will be transferred to the NMNH or, upon refusal, another appropriate repository. In instances involving specimens/samples collected on public or tribal lands, the agency or tribe may retain ownership rights. Disposition of such materials must be agreed to by the owner. Transfer is used for collections, parts of collections, that are well-documented (i.e., minimally meet the 5-point standard) and scientifically relevant for another repository. Transfer should not be used for collections or parts of collections that are being donated for educational purposes (see Donate).

To transfer a USGS working collection, the following apply:

  • The Sundry Civil Act of March 3, 1879 (20 USC § 59) mandates the USGS to “deposit collections no longer needed for investigations in progress at the Smithsonian National Museum”. The Smithsonian has the right of first refusal for any scientific collection offered to it. (see Smithsonian Directive [SD] 600 Section I.B.)

  • An exception to the Sundry Civil Act is when the samples/specimens are owned by another agency or tribe, in which case the disposition must be in accordance with the governing authority (e.g. statute, permit, treaty etc.). Ideally an agreement should be reached that maintains the scientific integrity of the collection and provides ongoing access to the collection.

  • If the intention is to transfer a USGS collection to an organization other than the NMNH, it needs to be offered first to the NMNH to satisfy their right of first refusal. If a repository other than the NMNH has been identified, the offer letter should make this known so that the NMNH is aware that there are other viable options. If the NMNH declines to accept the collection, then the USGS may consider alternative disposition including finding another appropriate repository, retention as USGS Museum Property, or disposal.

  • By transferring the collection to another repository, the USGS transfers ownership and custody of the collection and waives its rights according to the transfer agreement, relinquishing further involvement and obligations with transferred collection materials. These terms must be stipulated in the transfer agreement.

Documenting transfer:

Concerning scientific working collections or parts of collections that are no longer needed to meet the USGS mission, and that the NMNH agrees to accept, the following guidance applies:

  • Collections to be transferred to the NMNH or another repository must be described in official correspondence (e.g., a Memorandum of Agreement) that includes a complete list of what is being transferred (see Resources). This document must be signed by the Center Director.

  • Transfer of USGS scientific collections must be documented (i.e., receipted) in the USGS office or Science Center that holds the collection using form DI-104.

  • Transfer of USGS collection(s) also must be documented (i.e., recorded) in the USGS office or science center catalog and/or the National Digital Catalog.

Concerning scientific working collections, or parts of such collections that are no longer needed to meet the USGS mission, and that the NMNH declines to accept, the following guidance applies:

  • NMNH must provide documentation certifying that the USGS offered the collection to NMNH to honor its right of first refusal and NMNH declined to accept the offer. This may be in the form of an email.

  • When NMNH declines an offer from USGS, USGS must then offer the collection to other bureaus and offices in the Department of the Interior.

  • When none of the other bureaus and offices in the Department of the Interior accepts the offer, USGS must then offer the collection to another qualified repository. 

  • Collections to be transferred to either another DOI bureau or office, or to another qualified repository, must be described in official correspondence (e.g., a Memorandum of Agreement) that includes a complete list of what is being transferred (see Resources). The document must be signed by Center Director.

  • Transfer of USGS scientific working collections, or parts of collections, to another DOI bureau or office or to another qualified repository must be documented (i.e., receipted) in the USGS office or science center that holds the collection using a form DI-104.

  • Transfer of the USGS collection must be documented (i.e., recorded) in the USGS office or science center catalog and/or the National Digital Catalog.

Retain & Catalog

A working collection may still be of use for USGS research after completion of the research project that collected the material. After there has been a determination that retaining and maintaining the collection at USGS is the best disposition, the collection (or remaining collected material) will be retained as a working collection in USGS and will return to the Use stage of the lifecycle until a new evaluation of the collection is made. Retaining a working collection entails reviewing the Collection Plan and updating it when necessary to ensure collection management procedures (e.g. handling, storage, use, preservation) reflect the most recent context and condition of the collection, and are appropriate to properly manage the working collection from that point forward. 

Retaining a working collection also entails describing the collection in the National Digital Catalog. Only the higher level collection metadata that describe the general characteristics of the collection need to be entered into the National Digital Catalog. Individual sample metadata may also be entered but isn’t required. This formal documentation of retained collections and related data is essential to maintaining the integrity of USGS science products (USGS SM 502.5), and allows researchers to discover collections for additional investigations.

Accession as USGS Museum Property

In some circumstances, an evaluation may conclude that a working collection, or parts of it, need to be considered for accession as USGS Museum Property. Parameters for accessioning museum property are defined by a USGS Scope of Collections Statement for a specific collection. Once a working collection becomes USGS museum property, it must be housed, managed, staffed, reported, and funded thereafter as described in the policies of the Department of the Interior.

Appendices

Evaluation Questions

The following are questions that can help guide the evaluation process for determining next steps for a collection.

If the answer is ‘no’ to most of the questions below, consider Destroy, Donate, or Transfer.

If the answer is ‘yes’, consider Retain & Catalog.

  • Does the collection support ongoing USGS research? 

  • Does the collection meet the 5-point standard? (see below).

  • Does the collection represent a unique reference resource for ongoing and future USGS work that cannot be found elsewhere?

  • Did collection materials originate from agency managed lands, and have they been involved in determining a sample disposition plan? Land management agencies must be consulted prior to Destroy, Donate, or Transfer steps. Governing authorities for samples collected from federal, state, or tribal lands (e.g. laws, treaties, permits, MoUs etc.) must be complied with in determining ownership and disposition of materials.

  • Are the research objectives long-term or meant to be comparative across broad time scales? 

  • Is the condition and scientific integrity of the collection superb?

  • If the collection can still be used, would it directly address the mission of the USGS or needs of stakeholders?

  • Can the collection be adequately managed as a working collection with existing and future USGS resources?

  • Have research objectives expanded or changed and new work on the collection is anticipated?

  • Has the collection gained significant value due to an event or circumstance that makes the collection irreplaceable?

  • Is there clear interest in the curation and management of the collection by USGS but not by other repositories?

  • Does the collection contain the only representations of a certain material (i.e., no duplicates exist elsewhere)?

The 5-point Standard

The 5-point standard will be applied to the evaluation of collections that do not have a collection plan. The 5-point Standard aids in the evaluation process and determines if collections meet the basic requirements for ongoing research. If these minimum requirements cannot be met, in most cases such collections cannot be used for additional research or transferred to other repositories. 

The five points of the standard are:

  • Do the materials or samples have identification numbers or can they be assigned numbers?

  • Do the samples come with locality information or can that information be recovered without undue burden?

  • Is it known who collected the samples?

  • Is it known when the samples were collected?

  • How were the samples collected and stored?

Resources

Links

Forms

  • Data exit form for USGS employees to capture information on data and collections (download document in DOCX format here)

  • Example transfer agreement form between USGS and the NMNH (download document in DOCX format here)

  • Transfer and disposal of USGS working collections must be documented in the USGS office or Science Center and through forms DI-103A V.2 (Certificate of Unserviceable Property) and DI-104 (Transfer of Property), respectively.

Metadata and data releases (for documenting working collections)

Glossary

Catalog - verb: The act of classifying objects into categories and documenting them with descriptive detail and identifying or descriptive unique numbers. noun: A file or database comprised of systematically arranged records. A catalog of working collections is the primary tool for organizing and sharing information about collections, accessible through a digital environment at a USGS office or Science Center.

Collection Plan – A document established during the Project Work Plan process and approved by Science Center Directors that documents at a high level the details of the working collection and plans for its management. Full implementation of the collection plan ensures adherence to this policy.

Disposition - The outcome of the collection evaluation process that determines if a collection, or portion thereof, is to be transferred, or disposed of in accordance with applicable Bureau requirements.

Fundamental Science Practices (FSP) – The set of mandated requirements, codified in USGS policy, that describe the peer review process for publishing research results, releasing data, and other aspects of the scientific process conducted by USGS scientists.

Legacy collections – Existing collections from past research that may or may not have complete descriptions of their content, provenance, and management. These collections have not yet undergone the Collections Evaluation process.

National Digital Catalog - The National Digital Catalog includes metadata records describing geological and geophysical samples and data managed by state geological agencies and federal organizations.  The Catalog is currently being revised to allow entry of metadata records from all types of samples from new and existing USGS working collections.

Project Work Plan – A document that describes an approved study detailing the timeline for the research, the discrete tasks that need to be completed to accomplish the study objectives and the relationship of these tasks to one another as well as the methods to be used. A project work plan also includes details on the budget and staffing for the study, anticipated or planned information products, and the process for managing and archiving scientific records. (see SM 502.2)

Scientific collection – “Sets of physical specimens, living or inanimate, created for the purpose of supporting science and serving as a long-term research asset, rather than for their market value as collectibles or their historical, artistic, or cultural significance, and, as appropriate and feasible, the associated specimen data and materials”. Specimens in a Federal research laboratory or on Federal property are not necessarily, or automatically, part of a collection.

Voucher specimen - A specimen that physically and permanently documents data in published literature by verifying the identity of the organism(s) used in the study and by doing so ensures that a study which otherwise could not be repeated can be accurately reviewed or reassessed. For example, rock and mineral specimens may serve as vouchers to document the geology of an area.

Working collection –  “Organic or inorganic specimens and items maintained by bureau/office programs that are not intended for long-term preservation and care as museum property due to their expendable nature.  Working collections are intended for use during education or ongoing research and may be consumed or discarded during the analysis process according to bureau policy. Some specimens and items may subsequently be designated museum property. Working collections will be discarded when it is determined there is no longer a need for the collection for future research or education or upon completion of the ongoing research according to standards set in bureau/office policy (411 DM, Ch. 1).”

Contacts

Lindsay Powers, Ph.D.

Program Coordinator
National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program
Phone: 303-202-4828

Robert W Hood

Biologist
Water Resources Mission Area
Phone: 303-236-3485

John M Pearce, Ph.D.

Associate Center Director for Wetland and Terrestrial Ecosystems
Alaska Science Center
Phone: 907-786-7094