USGS Data Management

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Preserve > Repositories
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


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.

Why Use a Repository?

Key Points

  • Data repositories are central places where data are stored and maintained.
  • Submitting data to data repositories helps to ensure that data are preserved for the long term.
  • Data repositories encourage data discovery, access, and potential reuse.

Storing data in data repositories and data warehouses is highly encouraged and is part of the Preserve portion of the data lifecycle. Data repositories can help make a researcher's data more discoverable and accessible, and lead to potential reuse.

Data repositories can also serve as backups during rare events where data are lost to the researcher and must be retrieved. However, it is still important for researchers to perform their own data backups and not to rely on data repositories as the only backups.

Depending on the field, scientists may be required to store their data in certain repositories. Examples of repositories include the Core Research Center, the National Ice Core Laboratory, and the National Water Information System.

Best Practices

  • Check the list of acceptable digital repositories for USGS Scientific Publications and Data. Follow appropriate guidelines specified by the data repository to which you are submitting.
  • Always include your metadata.
  • Conversions and Formats unless specified:
  • Versioning:
    • Use consecutive numbers or letters to distinguish different versions of the dataset.
    • Guidance is available for how to versioning data releases [see Share > Versioning Your Data Release for more information]
  • File naming:
    • Use consistent, descriptive, and concise names for your files. [see Plan > Organize Files and Data for more information]
    • Rename any default file names such as "image.jpg."
  • Keywords:
    • If able, choose keywords that are relevant to the dataset. Better key words and tags increase the chance that your dataset will be discovered by others.

Example USGS Repositories

NWIS - National Water Information System

National Water Information System website

The National Water Information System (NWIS) provides access to water-resources data collected at approximately 1.5 million sites in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Online access to this data is organized around the following categories:

  • Current Conditions
  • Site Information
  • Surface Water
  • Groundwater
  • Water Quality

The USGS investigates the occurrence, quantity, quality, distribution, and movement of surface and underground waters and disseminates the data to the public, State and local governments, public and private utilities, and other Federal agencies involved with managing our water resources.

EROS - Earth Resources Observation and Science

Earth Resources Observation and Science website

Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) archives remotely sensed images of the Earth's land surface. These data are acquired by civilian satellites and aircraft and used to study a wide range of natural hazards, global environmental change, and economic development and conservation issues.

Available data include:

  • Aerial Photography
  • Satellite Imagery
  • Elevation
  • Land Cover
  • Digitized Maps
  • Image Gallery Collections

EROS staff members manage and distribute these data to scientists, policy makers, and educators worldwide.