USGS Data Management

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U.S. Geological Survey Data Lifecycle Diagram Plan Acquire Process Analyze Preserve Publish/Share Manage Quality Describe (Metadata, Documentation) Backup & Secure The USGS Science Data Lifecycle
U.S. Geological Survey Data Lifecycle Diagram

Data Management: Preservation

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Preservation involves actions and procedures to keep data for some period of time and/or to set data aside for future use, and includes data archiving and/or data submission to a data repository. A primary goal for the USGS is to preserve well-organized and documented datasets that support research interpretations that can be re-used by others; all research publications should be supported by associated, accessible datasets. Data must be disposed of in accordance with a written policy that conforms to the requirements of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Correct and prompt disposal of outdated information may reduce the Bureau's risk in some FOIA requests or legal actions, by demonstrating strict conformance to written policy and eliminating incorrect, outdated, or irrelevant information from the record.

Archive vs. Repository: Is There a Difference?

In the field of data management, the terms "archive" and "repository" often are used interchangeably. Within the Federal government, however, the term "archive" is specific to the mission and activities of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Only NARA, or a Federal entity officially delegated by NARA for the long-term curation of specific products, should be referred to as an "archive." The USGS Earth Resources Observations System (EROS) Data Center is one of the few government repositories officially recognized by NARA as an archive. Any similar Federal entity not receiving official NARA designation should be referred to as a "repository."


Via the Bureau Windows Technical Support Team (BWTST): "Archives and Backups are two very different things. Backups are created for the express purposes of data restoration and continuity of operations in an emergency. Archives, on the other hand, are a means for long-term storage of historically important data which are probably no longer needed online for immediate access." Learn more about Archiving.


Disposition is the final chapter in the records lifecycle, resulting in destruction of the records or their permanent, archival retention. Federal law requires the proper safeguarding of Federal records and makes it a crime to destroy them without the approval of the Archivist of the United States. In addition, the USGS creates many temporary or short-term records, some of which can be destroyed in a few years while others may have a lifecycle of 100 years. It is important to understand what a record is and how to manage it through its creation. Learn more about Disposition.

USGS Science Data Exit Survey Form

An Exit survey is an interview conducted with departing employee, just before they leave. By filling out the exit survey, it provides for an opportunity to document data and information created by the employee, as well as to transfer knowledge and experience. This form was created for the USGS, but can be useful to other organizations as well.

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Persistent Identifiers

Persistent Identifiers are globally unique numeric and/or character strings that reference a digital object. Persistent identifiers can be actionable in that they enable a user to access the digital resource via a persistent link. They are intended to function for the long term. While there are several standard persistent identifier systems, the most relevant to USGS are Digital Object Identifiers (DOI). Learn more about Persistent Identifiers.


A data repository is a centralized place to store and maintain data. A repository can consist of one or more databases or files which can be distributed over a network. Data repositories are often managed by data curation personnel who ensure that files are managed and preserved for the long term. Learn more about Repositories.

What the U.S. Geological Survey Manual Requires:

Effective October 1, 2016 the USGS Survey Manual chapter SM 502.9 Fundamental Science Practices: Preservation Requirements for Digital Scientific Data discusses requirements and procedures to ensure the preservation of all USGS digital scientific data and associated metadata.

SM 502.9 further specifies, all scientific data collected or created as a result of USGS funding must be preserved. Preservation and responsible parties must be addressed in the projectís data management plan. Data must be preserved in accordance with USGS records disposition and the Federal Records Act 36 CFR 1220.14. The USGS will retain an authoritative or original copy of all digital data and associated metadata for which it is responsible in digital repositories approved by the USGS.

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