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Data Sharing Agreements

Data Sharing Agreements are similar to MOUs, but are instead signed with non-Government agencies. Data Sharing Agreements need to include provisions concerning access and dissemination. It is not wise to enter into a data sharing agreement where privacy information may be disclosed since non-Federal organizations are not subject to the Privacy Act. Similarly, the non-Federal organization needs to be alerted that the Federal agencies may be compelled to release information under the FOIA.

Contents of Data Sharing Agreements

Learn More - USGS Agreements Coordination Information System (ACIS) Policies & Guidelines

The above includes links to USGS Data Agreement policies (from the USGS Manual), Agreement Types (each of which includes an example), Funding Types, and Partners.

National Geospatial Advisory Committee Interagency Data Sharing - A Primer [2-page PDF]

"One of the challenges of the geospatial community is to foster data sharing and collaboration among multiple agencies and organizations, across multiple levels of public, private, and not-for-profit entities. Successful interagency data sharing and collaboration is based on adopting guiding principles, identifying best practices, and recognizing the challenges, which may include policy issues, scientific issues, and technological issues."

Authority: The authority under which the Data Sharing is conducted must be defined.

Access Provisions: Whether the data are online or not, the agreement must define who has what rights to access the data, who has what rights to change or modify the data, and what the methods of data access will be.

Note that the details of these Agreements may need to reconcile management differences and business practices differences. For instance, how does an agency protect its data and what access will it be able to allow through firewalls and security controls? How are the agencies going to notify each other when permissions are changed? Which manager is going to be responsible for a given dataset?

Confidentiality and Disclaimers: There must be a disclaimer covering the accuracy of the data, as well as a description of the data along with appropriate metadata. Additionally, a statement concerning the release of information to a third party is required. This is needed because a non-Federal agency may not be able to protect USGS information from disclosure, and conversely because USGS may be compelled to release information under a FOIA request if no exemption applies.

Time Limit & Modification: If relevant, a time limit should be specified for the Agreement, as well as a method for modifying the Agreement. Such a time limit ensures that the Agreement is revisited periodically.

When NOT to use Data Sharing Agreements

The USGS may not share or exchange records or data that are:


  • Chatfield, T., Selbach, R. February, 2011. Data Management for Data Stewards. Data Management Training Workshop. Bureau of Land Management (BLM).