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The USGS Instructional Memoranda - Survey Manual 502.8 outlines the formal "Data Release" process for USGS scientific data. 

What constitutes a release of USGS scientific data within USGS?

USGS data releases must include the following five elements:

  1. USGS Fundamental Science Practices (FSP)-compliant peer review of data and metadata, undertaken within USGS Information Product Data System
  2. FGDC-compliant Metadata describing the data
  3. A Digital Object Identifier (DOI) specific to USGS, and pointing to the data
  4. A reliable and publicly available location where the data can be accessed (via the DOI) such as ScienceBase
  5. Availability of the released metadata describing the data in the USGS Science Data Catalog

Please see the USGS Data Management website for more information on the Data Release process.

USGS data release includes the following components:

FGDC-compliant Metadata

FGDC-compliant Metadata Icon

"Metadata" is a term used to describe scientific data documentation. The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata (CSDGM) is a widely used standard in Federal agencies to describe both geospatial and non-geospatial data.

See the USGS Data Management website for more information on metadata.

The USGS Metadata Wizard is an easy-to-use tool for creating FGDC-CSDGM metadata for geospatial datasets in ESRI ArcGIS Desktop. The tool is a Python toolbox for ESRI ArcDesktop that ingests geospatial files and through a semi-automated workflow, creates and updates metadata records in ESRI's 10.x software. Best for geospatial data (e.g. raster, shapefiles) and tabular data (e.g. ESRI geodatabase or Database File).

Both tools produce records in an XML format, which is easily viewed in any web browser. The XML metadata record can then be submitted to required metadata catalogs such as the USGS Science Data Catalog and

Digital Object Identifier (DOI) for USGS users

Digital Object Identifier Icon

A Digital Object Identifier (DOI) is one type of unique, persistent identifier that is permanently assigned to a specific electronic resource.

The USGS DOI tool [system requires USGS AD authentication] allows scientists to obtain a digital object identifier for their datasets. A data DOI can be cited in the original research publication and by subsequent users of those data, thus encouraging data reuse and crediting the authors of the data. Due to licensing restrictions, use of the Digital Object Identifier is restricted to USGS personnel, for those data products published by the bureau.

The DOI Tool will ask you to provide some information about your data before obtaining a DOI. Also users can request and reserve a DOI until they receive official approval for release of those data, and then return to the Tool to authorize publication of the DOI.

Information Product Data System (IPDS) for USGS users

Information Product Data System Icon

USGS employees publishing manuscripts or releasing data are required to use IPDS [system requires USGS AD authentication], an internal application for tracking the production of any published work or other information product, whether for the USGS or an outside organization.

IPDS is the web-based application that enables USGS to track, monitor, and update progress as an information product works its way through the review, approval, and production steps to its ultimate release. IPDS implements Fundamental Science Practices (FSP) routing processes, which allow authors to routinely collaborate to ensure that USGS series information products have met the appropriate FSP and publishing requirements prior to release. Create a new record in IPDS and choose "Data Release" as the Product Type.

USGS Dataset Repository

USGS Data Repository Icon

A data repository is a centralized place to store and maintain data. A repository can consist of one or more databases or files which can be distributed over a network. Data repositories are often overseen by data curation personnel who ensure that files are managed and preserved for the long-term. USGS is currently in the process of formally evaluating and designating official USGS repositories.

If you need a centralized place to store and maintain your data, one USGS option is ScienceBase. ScienceBase is an Open Source project that provides current documentation about its structure, information model, services, directory and repository. In line with the new USGS Data Release requirements, the ScienceBase team has outlined a comprehensive workflow to assist USGS researchers in releasing their data through ScienceBase. If you plan to use ScienceBase to release your data, please contact the SB Data Release Team at

Key Elements:

  • Data cataloging and collaborative data management platform
  • Central search and discovery application
  • Web services facilitating other applications
  • Research community catalogs
  • Supports USGS data release

Science Data Catalog (SDC)

Science Data Catalog Icon

The USGS Science Data Catalog (SDC) provides seamless access to USGS research and monitoring data from across the nation. Users have the ability to search, browse, or use a map-based interface to discover data that have been officially released. Inclusion in the SDC is the final step in a USGS data release, and enables access and discovery, in addition to compliance with the White House Open Data initiative.

The USGS Science Data Catalog:

  • Meets White House Open Data reporting requirements for USGS
  • Provides a Search and Discovery Tool that allows for metadata retrieval, visualization, download, and linking back to original data providers
  • Offers a single source for USGS to serve its metadata to,, OMB, etc.
  • Helps ensure that USGS metadata meet minimum requirements
  • Supports data managers in applying the Publish/Share element of the USGS Science Data Lifecycle Model


Other Data Resources