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The USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Data Catalog makes research data easier to find by offering a preselected collection of metadata (“data about data”) and customized query tools.

Screenshot of a catalog web site where you can do data searches for coastal and ocean data collected by the USGS.
Screen shot showing the search interface of the Coastal and Marine Geology Data Catalog which provides access to digital data of the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program. The catalog allows searching by free-text keyword (upper left), geographic location (interactive map and place name menus, upper right), and controlled vocabulary filters (lower left). The sortable search results (lower right) include a brief summary of each data set and direct links to the digital data (“Get Data”) and formal metadata record (“View Metadata”).

Scientific data are a foundation of USGS research, and USGS is committed to release these data online and make them freely available to the public. USGS is not alone in this—the rest of the Federal Government and the international scientific community are also providing large volumes of data online, creating an information overload that can make it difficult to discover the specific data sets one needs.

The USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program (CMGP) has released the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Data Catalog to make its research data easier to find by offering a preselected collection of metadata (“data about data”) and customized query tools. The catalog was created and is maintained by the USGS Science Data Catalog team, led by Lisa Zolly and Ben Wheeler (USGS Core Science Analytics, Synthesis, and Libraries, Denver, Colorado), which ensures that all of the data listed in the catalog are also available through the more general USGS Science Data Catalog (SDC) and

All three catalogs operate using collections of metadata records that describe individual data sets. The collection consists of more than 230,000 metadata records submitted by all agencies and offices of the Federal government and offers a free-text search box and broad topical filters to help the user identify data sets of interest. The SDC collection, with over 12,000 metadata records submitted by all USGS programs, also offers a geographical search function using an interactive map and lists of place names, as well as filtering by keyword, data type, data source, and scientist. The CMG Data Catalog, with over 4,000 metadata records maintained by a single USGS program, offers the same search capabilities as the SDC, except the keyword filters use controlled vocabularies that include terms relevant to coastal and marine research: the USGS Thesaurus and Data Categories for Marine Planning.

All three data catalogs enable access to data sets described by formal metadata records that conform to the Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata (CSDGM) which generally limits the catalog holdings to digital data released since 1994. The success of these catalogs in providing complete and correct responses to queries depends, of course, on the completeness and accuracy of the underlying metadata records.

The CMGP metadata collection is actively managed by a group of USGS data specialists who validate the metadata records with respect to CSDGM. The team ensures that the records are “in sync” with the data sets they describe, update (as necessary) online links and contact information provided in the metadata, include references to new scientific publications, and add keywords from controlled vocabularies to improve discovery. The specialists are: Alan Allwardt and Susan Cochran (Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center, Santa Cruz, California), VeeAnn Cross and John O’Malley (Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center, Woods Hole, Massachusetts), Arnell Forde, Chelsea Stalk, and Heather Schreppel (St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center, St. Petersburg, Florida), and Peter Schweitzer (Eastern Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center, Reston, Virginia). Once enough of the program’s metadata includes keywords from the Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard (CMECS), these terms will also be offered as filters within the CMG Data Catalog.

For More Information:

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) plan, entitled “Public Access to Results of Federally Funded Research at the U.S. Geological Survey: Scholarly Publications and Digital Data” outlines a framework for activities to increase public access to scholarly publications and digital scientific data resulting from research funded by the USGS.

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