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502.1 - Fundamental Science Practices: Foundation Policy



Issuance Number:         502.1

Subject:                            Fundamental Science Practices: Foundation Policy

Issuance Date:                9/28/2023

Expiration Date:             9/27/2028

Responsible Office:        Office of Science Quality and Integrity

Instruction: This Survey Manual (SM) chapter supersedes SM 502.1, Fundamental Science Practices: Foundation Policy, dated June 28, 2018.

Approving Official:         /s/ Craig Robinson                                                     

                                           Director, Office of Science Quality and Integrity


1.    Purpose and Scope.

A.  The reputation of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for scientific excellence, integrity, and objectivity is one of the Bureau’s most important assets.  This reputation for reliable, unbiased science brings authority to data and findings, creates and protects long-term credibility, and ensures that the public trust is met.  This policy provides the foundation for requirements that are detailed in this and accompanying Survey Manual (SM) chapters and Instructional Memoranda (IM) directives with the intent to ensure the quality and integrity of USGS science activities.  Collectively, these requirements are the USGS Fundamental Science Practices (FSP), a set of consistent practices, philosophical premises, and operational principles that underlie Bureau science activities and support the USGS vision and mission.

B.  FSP requirements apply to all aspects of Bureau scientific activities—from planning research studies, collecting and documenting information, data, and software, to releasing and disseminating the resulting information products (IPs).  FSP encompass procedures, processes, and other guidance related to USGS science activities and include how scientific information products resulting from these activities are reviewed, approved, and released.

C.  FSP requirements apply to all USGS employees, political appointees, volunteers, including emeriti as well as contractors, cooperators, partners, and other external parties who assist with USGS scientific activities.

D.  USGS scientific information products (referred to as information products or IPs), as defined by FSP, are the compilation of scientific knowledge such as facts, data, or interpretations in any medium (such as print, digital, web) or form (including textual, numerical, graphical, cartographic, and audiovisual) for release and dissemination by the USGS or a non-USGS entity.  USGS information products must have at least one Bureau-affiliated author (refer to SM 502.10, section 4 and the Authorship FAQs).  Information products may be referred to by other terms used in the Bureau, including but not limited to scientific publication, data product, software product, and map product.

2.    Authority.  The Organic Act of March 3, 1879, as amended, established and authorized the USGS (refer to SM 120.1).  The USGS, in fulfilling its vision and mission, is obligated to preserve scientific excellence, integrity, and objectivity, and ensure effective communication and dissemination of its science.

3.    References.

A.  SM Part 502 - USGS Fundamental Science Practices and Related Policies

B.  SM Part 1100 - USGS Publishing Policies

C.  SM 205.18, Authority to Approve Information Products

D.  SM 431.1, Records Management Roles and Responsibilities

E.  SM 500.5, News Release and Media Relations Policy

F.  SM 500.25, Scientific Integrity

G.  IM OSQI 2022-01, Quality Management Systems for USGS Laboratories

H.  USGS Fundamental Science Practices (website)

4.    Policy.

A.  USGS FSP govern how scientific research and related activities are planned (SM 502.2) and how information products resulting from these activities are reviewed, approved, released, communicated, and preserved (SM 502.4).  Other FSP address requirements on specific topics, including peer review (SM 502.3), metadata (SM 502.7), data release (SM 502.8), data preservation (SM 502.9), authorship (SM 502.10), software release (IM OSQI 2019-01), as well as other related USGS, Department, and Federal Government requirements that apply.

B.  FSP policies represent the requirements to be followed by all those involved in conducting USGS science activities on behalf of the Bureau.  Individual organizational units within the Bureau may put additional requirements in place that do not conflict with current FSP policy and guidance as deemed necessary.

C.  Noncompliance with FSP requirements may be considered a violation of the Department of the Interior (DOI) Code of Scientific and Scholarly Conduct.  DOI and USGS requirements related to ensuring scientific integrity must be followed (refer to Departmental Manual (DM) chapter 305 DM 3 and SM 500.25).

D.  FSP policy, procedures, and guidance to be followed are available on the public FSP website and the internal FSP website.  These sites provide detailed information for complying with FSP requirements.

5.    Responsibilities.  Specific responsibilities are described below.

A.  Director and Deputy Directors.  The Director and Deputy Directors consult with the USGS Executive Leadership Team (ELT) and FSP Advisory Council (FSPAC) regarding requirements, responsibilities, recommendations, and dispute resolution toward ensuring FSP implementation and compliance. 

B.  Associate Directors (ADs) and Regional Directors (RDs).  ADs and RDs ensure compliance with FSP requirements.  They may set additional requirements for the mission and regional areas for which they are responsible that supplement but do not conflict with current FSP policy.  ADs and RDs, in collaboration with OSQI and FSPAC, address issues, take corrective action, serve as approving officials, and consider other matters regarding FSP compliance.

C.  Fundamental Science Practices Advisory Council (FSPAC).  The FSPAC is the Bureau’s standing Council to provide advice and recommendations to USGS leadership and others regarding FSP (refer to SM 308.74).  The FSPAC Co-Chairs report to the ELT.  FSPAC works closely with OSQI and others in developing new FSP policy and guidance and serves in an advisory role to the entire Bureau in support of FSP implementation.  FSPAC proposes modifications to existing policy and guidance for consideration by the USGS ELT and other Bureau groups and responds to ELT requests for new policy and guidance on various topics related to FSP.  FSPAC is also responsible for updating, developing, and maintaining content for the public FSP website and the internal FSP website.

D.  Office of Science Quality and Integrity (OSQI).  OSQI ensures compliance with FSP policies and the OSQI Director ensures that Bureau Approving Officials (BAOs) are selected by a career scientist in OSQI.  OSQI collaborates with the ELT and FSPAC to address and resolve issues regarding FSP policy, procedures, and guidance. The OSQI Director appoints ex-officio (non-voting) members to FSPAC as deemed appropriate to ensure the interests of OSQI’s role as the responsible office for this and other FSP SM policies are represented. The OSQI Director grants the final decision on using any alternative FSP review and approval process.

E.  Bureau Approving Officials (BAOs).  BAOs in OSQI provide guidance on FSP requirements including appropriate review, approval, and release of information products (SM 502.4).  As supervisor of the OSQI BAOs, the BAO Coordinator provides oversight and coordination between the OSQI, FSPAC, and Science Center Director and others.  BAOs perform FSP policy review and grant Bureau approval for information products as described in SM 205.18

F.  Science Center Directors (SCDs).  SCDs ensure that FSP requirements are followed in the centers for which they are responsible.  In collaboration with their ADs and RDs, they may set additional requirements, that supplement but do not conflict with current FSP policy.  SCDs also serve as approving officials for information products as described in SM 205.18 and may redelegate this approval authority to a designee of comparable responsibility or knowledge within their centers.  Assignments for approval authority are documented in the internal USGS Information Product Data System.  

G.  Supervisors.  Supervisors ensure FSP are followed by employees they supervise and confirm that the appropriate requirements are met before products are submitted for Bureau approval.

H.  USGS Scientists.  USGS scientists are responsible for following FSP and related requirements and guidance (refer to section 4.A,) and ensuring the scientific integrity of their work (refer to section 4.C.).  USGS scientists also ensure their collaborators are informed about FSP requirements.