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502.1 - Fundamental Science Practices: Foundation Policy

This chapter provides the foundation for a set of fundamental principles that are detailed in accompanying policy chapters.


OPR: Office of Science Quality and Integrity

Instruction: This replaces Survey Manual Chapter (SM) 502.1 - Fundamental Science Practices: Foundation Policy, dated December 16, 2011.

1.  Purpose and Scope.

A.  The scientific reputation of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for excellence, integrity, and objectivity is one of the Bureau’s most important assets. This reputation for reliable science brings authority to data and findings, creates and protects long-term credibility, and ensures that the public trust is met.  This policy chapter provides the foundation for a set of fundamental principles and requirements that are detailed in this and in accompanying chapters with the overall intent to ensure the quality and integrity of USGS science activities. These principles collectively are the USGS Fundamental Science Practices (FSP). FSP underlie the Bureau’s science activities, uphold its scientific reputation, and underscore its mandate to provide reliable science to address important societal needs.  FSP requirements apply to all aspects of Bureau scientific processes—from planning studies and collecting and documenting data and information to dissemination of the resulting information products. Limited exceptions to FSP may be granted on a case-by-case basis.

B.  The FSP include guidance on the release and communication of results of USGS activities in scientific information products.  A USGS scientific information product (hereafter referred to as information product) as defined by this policy is the compilation of scientific communication or representation of knowledge such as facts, data, or interpretations in any medium (for example, print, digital, web) or form (includes textual, numerical, graphical, cartographic, and audiovisual forms), for release or dissemination by the USGS or a non-USGS entity to a defined external audience or customer.  USGS information products have at least one Bureau-affiliated author (refer to SM 502.4).  The term scientific “information product” encompasses other terms used in the Bureau, including but not limited to “publication,” “data product,” and “map product.”

2.  Authority.  The USGS, in fulfilling the scientific mission in its Organic Act, is authorized and obligated to preserve scientific excellence, integrity, and objectivity, and to ensure the effective dissemination and public communication of its science.

3. References.

A. SM 502.2 - Fundamental Science Practices: Planning and Conducting Data Collection and Research

C. SM 500.25 - Scientific Integrity
D. 305 DM 3 - Integrity of Scientific and Scholarly Activities
E. Fundamental Science Practices of the USGS (Website)

4.  Policy.

A.  USGS FSP govern how scientific investigations, research, and related activities are planned and conducted and how information products resulting from these activities are reviewed, approved, released, and preserved (SM 502.2 and SM 502.4). Refer to other separate FSP SMs that address specific topics including peer reviewmetadatadata release, and data preservation requirements and other applicable Department and Federal Government requirements.

B.  The FSP policies represent the minimum requirements to which all USGS organizational units must adhere. Individual organizational units may put more stringent requirements in place as deemed necessary.

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

D.  The procedures and guidance that support FSP policy are available at the public ( and internal FSP websites. These sites provide more specific and detailed information for implementing and complying with FSP requirements.

5.  Responsibilities.  Everyone in the USGS involved in science activities is responsible for complying with FSP.  Designated officials have specific roles in implementing FSP requirements.

A.  Director, Deputy Director for Administration and Policy, Deputy Director for Operations.  The USGS Director has final authority and responsibility for FSP and for the excellence, integrity, and objectivity of USGS science and associated information products.  The Director, assisted by the Deputy Directors, leads and consults with the Executive Leadership Team (ELT), which is a deliberative body of senior-level leaders of the major Bureau components that shares oversight responsibilities and makes recommendations toward ensuring the USGS mission is successfully accomplished.

B.  Associate Directors and Regional Directors. Associate Directors and Regional Directors set FSP policy and practices for the collection, review, approval, and release of USGS scientific information and associated materials and provide oversight for the processes and requirements that govern FSP.  They collaborate with one another and with Science Center Directors in their areas of oversight regarding the content and application of these policies and practices to ensure consistency.  Associate Directors and Regional Directors, in collaboration with Science Center Directors in their areas, may put more stringent requirements in place than those minimally required by FSP requirements as they deem necessary.  Regional Directors, in collaboration with the Office of Science Quality and Integrity (OSQI), also execute and ensure compliance with the FSP policies and practices governing review, approval, and release of information and address issues or take corrective action with regard to FSP requirements.

C.  Office of Science Quality and Integrity (OSQI).  The OSQI, in collaboration with the Associate Directors and Regional Directors, ensures compliance with and advises on the execution of FSP policies.  The OSQI, as needed, collaborates with the entire ELT to address issues or take corrective action regarding the compliance of FSP requirements.  The OSQI, on behalf of the USGS Director, appoints Bureau Approving Officials (BAOs) on an interim or permanent basis to provide Bureau approval (also known as Director’s approval) for the information products as described in SM 205.18. The BAOs in the OSQI serve as agency experts and provide guidance, advice, and recommendations on the appropriate approval practices for all USGS scientific information products for release (SM 502.4).  The OSQI also maintains FSP policy documents and, in coordination with the FSP Advisory Committee, assists in developing procedures and guidance that pertain to FSP.

D.  Science Center Directors.  Science Center Directors ensure that FSP requirements are followed in the centers for which they are responsible. On behalf of the USGS Director, they serve as approving officials for the information products they have Bureau authority to approve.  Science Center individuals who have approval authority are verified in the internal Information Product Data System. Science Center Directors may redelegate this approval authority to other equivalent individuals within their centers (refer to SM 205.18 and SM 502.4).

E.  Fundamental Science Practices Advisory Committee (FSPAC).  The FSPAC serves as the official committee providing support for FSP implementation, including monitoring FSP and advising on FSP and related requirements and practices to ensure the objectivity and quality of the Bureau’s science research practices and information products.  This support includes, but is not limited to, recommending policy changes, addressing pending and new FSP issues, developing recommendations for resolving issues, and serving as a sounding board for FSP issues (SM 308.74).


/s/ Roseann Gonzales                                                                  June 28, 2018
Associate Director for Administration