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Scientific Collections Management

USGS scientists collect geological, geophysical, biological, hydrological, and other discipline-related specimens and samples in the conduct of their research. Federal scientific working collections are public assets and need to be well documented if they are to provide reliable and unbiased information, and potentially have value to the broader scientific community.

Why Manage Your Collections?

The practice of scientific collections management enables collections and their metadata to be properly handled and documented, and to become a resource for the scientific community after initial research activities are completed at the USGS. 

A pair of researchers collecting a soil sample from a hill slope in southwestern Alaska.
A pair of researchers collecting a soil sample from a hill slope in southwestern Alaska.(Credit: Steve Smith, USGS. Public domain.)

Scientific working collections are acquired by USGS scientists, funded by taxpayers, and constitute a valuable resource to the United States and its citizens. These collections remain the property of the federal government until they are deemed to be of no further scientific value. USGS policy and guidance provides instructions to its scientists about how to manage scientific collections after research is completed. By implementing sound collections management, USGS scientific working collections can potentially be used in other contexts and by other researchers. Adhering to the policy allows USGS scientists to be good stewards of their scientific collections and solidifies their legacy within the USGS as it prioritizes science for a changing world. Other benefits include:

  • Added value to USGS science through the promotion of FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reproducible) practices for scientific collections
  • Increased opportunities to reuse and reanalyze materials, especially as new technologies emerge
  • Increased accessibility of physical samples and materials
  • Reduced or eliminated investment in new sample collection (i.e., field work), storage, and maintenance
  • Increased opportunities for education and outreach
  • Increased collaboration, citation, and continuation of scientific progress
  • Ensured preservation and protection of collections that are the only source of irreplaceable materials
  • Ensured preservation of historically and scientifically significant collections
  • Increased protection for federally funded assets