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502.8 - Fundamental Science Practices: Review and Approval of Scientific Data for Release

This chapter provides requirements and procedures for review and approval of U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientific data prior to release.  This chapter applies to all USGS approved scientific data and preliminary scientific data that are released to the public.


OPR: Office of Science Quality and Integrity

Instruction: This is a new Survey Manual (SM) chapter that replaces Instructional Memorandum (IM) OSQI 2015.03 issued February 19, 2015, and replaces the Computer Databases part of SM chapter SM 500.24 - Policy for Release of Computer Databases and Computer Programs, dated April 9, 1993.

1.  Purpose and Scope.  This chapter provides requirements and procedures for review and approval of U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientific data prior to release.  This chapter applies to all USGS approved scientific data and preliminary scientific data that are released to the public.  These data include, but are not limited to geospatial and non-geospatial data that are made available in datasets, databases, and data services; data associated with other information product publications; model outputs and derived products; and data from other sources that are subsequently made part of a USGS dataset, database, or data service.

2.  Background Scientific data funded by the USGS are the property of the Federal Government, and as such, are Federal records.  USGS scientific data are made available publicly at no cost and in the public domain, except where access must be restricted because of security, privacy, confidentiality, or other constraints.  The February 22, 2013, Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) memorandum “Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research” requires free public access to digital data resulting from federally funded research, including datasets used to support scholarly publications.  As a result, all USGS scientific publications must reference their associated data.  The May 9, 2013, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) memorandum “Open Data Policy—Managing Data as an Asset” also requires agencies to provide free public access to data collected or created by using Federal funds, and to collect or create data in a way that supports downstream processing and dissemination activities.  This includes using machine-readable or open formats, data standards, and common-core and extensible metadata for all data released to the public.  The USGS Public Access Plan supports these OSTP and OMB requirements.

3.  References.

A. Open Data Policy—Managing Information as an Asset (Office of Management and Budget (OMB) memorandum, May 9, 2013) 

B. Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research (Office of Science Technology and Policy (OSTP) memorandum, February 22, 2013) 

C. Coordinating Geographic Data Acquisition and Access: The National Spatial Data Infrastructure (Executive Order 12906) 

D. 305 DM 3 – Integrity of Scientific and Scholarly Activities 

E. 378 DM 1 – Data Resource Management 

F. SM 502.1 – Fundamental Science Practices: Foundation Policy 

G. SM 502.2 – Fundamental Science Practices: Planning and Conducting Data Collection and Research 

H. SM 502.4 – Fundamental Science Practices: Review, Approval, and Release of Information Products 

I. SM 502.5 – Fundamental Science Practices: Safeguarding Unpublished USGS Data, Information, and Associated Scientific Materials 

J. SM 502.6 – Fundamental Science Practices: Scientific Data Management 

K. SM 502.7 – Fundamental Science Practices: Metadata for USGS Scientific Information Products including Data 

L. SM 502.9 – Fundamental Science Practices: Preservation Requirements for Scientific Data 

M. SM 601.1 – USGS Web Standards 

N. SM 1100.1 – Information Product Planning 

O. SM 1100.3 – USGS Publication Series 

P. SM 1100.4 – Use of Outside Publications, Including Abstracts 

Q. USGS Records Disposition Schedules 

R. USGS Data Management Web site 

S. USGS Fundamental Science Practices Web site 

T. USGS Public Access Plan

4.  Definitions The following definitions pertain to USGS scientific data:

A.  Data.  Observations or measurements (unprocessed or processed) represented as text, numbers, or multimedia.  Data are considered noninterpretive information.

B.  Dataset.  A structured collection of data.

C.  Database.  Datasets and other items stored together to serve one or more purposes or applications, often including data query or search and retrieval capabilities.  Databases are considered noninterpretive.

D.  Data Service.  A Web service that provides remote access to data using standard data access protocols.  Data services may include application program interfaces (API), which are sets of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications.  Data services are considered noninterpretive.

E.  Provisional or Preliminary Data.  Those data (such as real-time data) that are subject to revision and may be released prior to Bureau approval to meet an immediate need (refer to SM 502.5).

F.  Emergency Use Data.  Real-time and other data that have immediate or time-sensitive relevance to public or wildlife health and safety, such as warnings or alerts related to natural hazards forecasts or reports of streamflow conditions, and national security concerns.  Emergency use data are also considered provisional or preliminary and because of the time sensitive nature of these data, metadata are not required as stated in SM 502.7.

G.  Approved Data.  Those data that have USGS approval for release as described in this chapter and SM 205.18.

5.  Policy.   

A.  It is the policy of the USGS to provide timely public access at no cost to scientific data that are developed or funded by the Bureau’s information and research programs.  Scientific data when approved for release are considered USGS information products (SM 1100.1) and must comply with the appropriate USGS Fundamental Science Practices (FSP) requirements including those described in this chapter and in SM 502.4.  Scientific data must also have a corresponding records schedule that provides the disposition and retention requirements (refer to USGS Records Disposition Schedules).

B.  The USGS releases both provisional or preliminary and approved scientific data.  Until they are approved for release, scientific data are provisional or preliminary and subject to revision.

C.  Scientific data approved for release must comply with the metadata requirements as described in SM 502.7, and the metadata must be deposited in and shared through the USGS Science Data Catalog. 

D.  Approved scientific data and provisional or preliminary data must be accompanied by the appropriate disclaimer statement.  Where applicable, other disclaimer statements such as those regarding non-endorsement of commercial products or use of copyrighted material should be included.  Disclaimer statements for approved and provisional or preliminary data are available at the USGS FSP Web site (refer to

E.  Reviews of scientific data and associated metadata are required before data are approved (refer to section 6).

F.  Approved scientific data must be assigned a persistent identifier, specifically a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) for scientific data obtained from the USGS registration agent, and be accompanied by a recommended citation (refer to

G.  USGS data approved for release are made available at no cost to the public and are managed through a data repository that can ensure their long-term preservation, discoverability, accessibility, and usability as described in SM 502.9. Additional guidance on acceptable USGS digital data repositories is available on the FSP site.

H. Requirements for proprietary data prepared by the USGS or received from other sources described in SM 502.5 must be followed. 

I.  The procedures and guidance information that support this chapter are available from the FSP Web site and the Data Management Web site.

6.  Review and Approval of Scientific Data.  Scientific data intended for public release, as stated above, are subject to USGS FSP review, approval, and release requirements described below and in SM 502.4 as applicable.  Individual USGS organizational units may establish additional requirements and procedures (refer to SM 502.2).

A.  Reviews of the data and the associated metadata are required, and these reviews must be documented in the internal USGS Information Product Data System (IPDS).  It may be appropriate for the same person to conduct both the data and the metadata reviews.  The data review involves checking that the data meet standards for quality and completeness, in contrast to peer review (as described in SM 502.3), which establishes the veracity of the scientific interpretation.  Data review requires the reviewer to have specialized scientific knowledge of the particular type of data being reviewed (refer to Data Management Web site,  The metadata review ensures that the requirements of SM 502.7 are met.  Refer to the data checklist and the metadata checklist for additional guidance on conducting the data and metadata reviews (

B.  Scientific data are approved for release by Science Center Directors or their designees (SM 205.18).  USGS scientific data are considered noninterpretive.  The methods used to create the data, however, may be derived based on an interpretive process, in which case the methods and interpretations must be described fully in a peer-reviewed information product.  This peer-reviewed information product must be referenced in the complete metadata record associated with the data.  Refer to Distinctions Between New Research or Interpretive Information Products and Previously Published or Noninterpretive Information Products for additional guidance.

C.  All final scientific data either released by the USGS or provided to research partners under cooperative or other collaborative agreements must be reviewed for quality and accuracy and must include complete metadata.

D.  If released data are modified or new data are added, these data must be reviewed for quality and accuracy, and may be subject to re-approval. In these cases, the modifications and additions must be documented.

7 Review, Approval, and Maintenance of USGS-owned Online Databases or Web Data Services

A.  Review of the metadata and related documentation for USGS-owned databases or Web data services is required prior to the approval of a database or data service. 

(1) This documentation must include data type and format, restrictions or terms of use, processes for quality review and quality control of the data, instructions for use, responsible party, and information to enable others to use and understand how the database or data service is intended to work.  Additionally, documentation includes data provenance, methods used to structure and assemble the data, and structure and use of APIs. Metadata describing these products must provide specific details regarding data type and format; access and use constraints; processes and controls for accuracy, consistency, and completeness; values, definitions, and domains of database fields; provenance of source data; process steps and methods used to structure and assemble the data; and contact information for responsible parties.  Supporting documentation and readme files may provide instructions on the operation and use of the database or system, and should define the structure and implementation of associated APIs.  System documentation provides invaluable contextual information, and is required for permanent electronic records transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in accordance with USGS records disposition schedules.

(2) Documentation is made available at no cost to the public, through a link from the database or data service.  The data service or online database must include a mechanism that allows the public to identify and extract, in a machine-readable format, exactly the version and subset of the data collection that is used in a given interpretive information product.

B.  Review and approval of the database or data service must be tracked in the IPDS. 

C.  Maintenance and oversight of the online database, data service, or method of data release is performed under the direction of an assigned data manager who oversees the process that ensures the preservation and quality of data added to the database or data service, routine data reviews, documentation of methods, procedures, and changes to the data.

8.  Responsibilities.  All those involved in any phase of the scientific data release process, including data producers, managers, and reviewers, are responsible for complying with this policy.  In addition, specific responsibilities include:

A.  Associate Directors and Regional Directors.  Associate Directors (ADs) and Regional Directors (RDs) coordinate with Science Center Directors to ensure appropriate stewardship of the data produced in their respective mission and regional areas.

B.  Office of Science Quality and Integrity, Core Science Systems, and Office of Enterprise Information.  The Office of Science Quality and Integrity (OSQI), Core Science Systems (CSS), and Office of Enterprise Information (OEI) are responsible for jointly developing this USGS data management policy and collaborating on the development of related guidance and procedures.  The OSQI coordinates with the ADs and RDs as needed to address and resolve issues regarding the execution of this policy and related data-management review and approval processes.  The CSS maintains comprehensive guidance and procedures related to data management (refer to the USGS Data Management Web site).  The OEI is responsible for ensuring that the records management requirements that inform scientific data records policy are in place.  The OSQI maintains and communicates this and other FSP-related policy documents.

C.  Science Center Directors, Managers, Supervisors, and Authors.  Science Center Directors, managers (project and program), supervisors, and authors or creators of data ensure that the requirements of this chapter are followed.  They consult and work with each other, OSQI and CSS managers, and approving officials, as needed during the processes of review, approval, and release of scientific data.  Science Center Directors and managers collaborate with their mission area ADs and RDs as necessary to assign or ensure the assigning or designating of data managers to steward the scientific data produced in their respective offices and centers.  Science Center Directors (or their designees) have the primary responsibility for approving data for release, including emergency and provisional or preliminary data, and for approving databases and data services.  Supervisors have the first responsibility in the management chain with regard to ensuring a data review, a metadata review, and approval occurs for data released by those they supervise.  Authors ensure the methods used to create the data, if derived through an interpretive process are described fully in an associated peer-reviewed information product.

D.  Data Managers.  Data managers, as the assigned or designated individuals, teams, or organizations, are responsible for stewarding scientific data through the release process.  They collaborate with their Science Center Directors, managers, supervisors, and scientists in the conduct of their data stewardship activities.

E.  Approving Officials.  Approving officials, including Science Center Directors (or their designees) and Bureau Approving Officials in the OSQI, collaborate with authors, ADs and RDs, and others as needed regarding review and approval of scientific data (refer to SM 205.18).

F.  Records Officer.  The Records Officer in the OEI ensures bureau-wide policies, standards, and procedures including records schedules are in place to provide guidance on creating accurate and complete records with regard to scientific data in accordance with applicable USGS and NARA records management requirements.


/s/ Jose R. Aragon                                                                    01/13/2017

Associate Director for Administration