USGS Data Management

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Publish/Share > Data Release
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

Data Release

Publication of scientific data as stand-alone products or in conjunction with the scholarly articles they support is integral to the open data movement. The USGS is developing a path forward for formally releasing USGS scientific data called a "data release".

USGS Data Release Workbench


Screenshot of the USGS Data Release Workbench home page.
An online checklist to guide data authors through the USGS data release process.

Key Points

  • New OSTP and OMB policies require data release at the same time the journal article or USGS series report becomes open access.
  • New USGS policies on data establish requirements for releasing data.
  • Allowing data producers to control when their data are released can minimize their risks and concerns about data sharing.

Open Data Overview

White House Open Data Initiatives

  • The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) February 22, 2013, Memorandum entitled "Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research" requires public access to digital datasets resulting from federally funded research, including datasets used to support scholarly publications.
  • The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), May 9, 2013, Memorandum M-13-13 entitled "Open Data Policy-Managing Information as an Asset" requires agencies to support downstream dissemination activities for all new information created and collected (e.g. using machine readable and open formats, data standards, and common core and extensible metadata).

What the U.S. Geological Survey Manual Requires:

  • SM 502.6 - Fundamental Science Practices: Scientific Data Management
  • SM 502.7 - Fundamental Science Practices: Metadata for USGS Scientific Information Products including Data
  • SM 502.8 - Fundamental Science Practices: Review and Approval of Scientific Data for Release
  • SM 502.9 - Fundamental Science Practices: Preservation Requirements for Digital Scientific Data

USGS Resources

Data Release in the USGS

What constitutes a release of USGS scientific data within USGS?

  1. Data Management Plan (DMP)

    Several words relating to data, jumbled all aroung the image created by the Word Cloud tool.

    For every project, the USGS requires a data management plan. This plan should be written prior to beginning project work, and updated throughout the project. A data management plan focuses on how the data will be handled throughout the project. For example, how will the data be obtained or collected? What is the schedule and budget for data collection? How will the data be quality checked? How will the data be stored, accessed, and protected? A good data management plan provides a strategy for how you will answer all of these questions.

    How do I create a data management plan? See Plan > Data Management Plans.


  2. Scientific Data
    Example of what a CSV file can look like with comma separated values format.

    Example comma separated values (csv) format.

    Ensure that your data is in open format (CSV, ASCII, GIF, NetCDF, GeoTiff, etc.) to ensure longevity. The data can be released separately or alongside the publication of the scholarly journal it supported.


  3. FGDC-compliant Metadata
  4. Screenshot of the Metadata Wizard tool.

    Example tool: Metadata Wizard

    Metadata describes information about a dataset, such that a dataset can be understood, re-used, and integrated with other datasets. Information described in a metadata record includes where the data were collected, who is responsible for the dataset, why the dataset was created, and how the data are organized.

    Once you have created metadata, it needs to:

    How do I create a metadata record for data? See Describe > Metadata.


  5. USGS Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

    Persistent Identifiers are globally unique numeric and/or character strings that enables a user to access a digital resource via a permanent, long-term link. While there are several standard persistent identifier systems, the USGS uses Digital Object Identifiers (DOI) for its information products. All data being released in USGS must have DOIs. Digital Object Identifiers are especially useful when citing your data. Like a publication, cite and receive credit for your data.

    Once you have created a digital object identifier, it needs to:

    • appear in your metadata record
    • be included in your publication as a data citation, if it applies
    • managed in the USGS DOI Creation Tool, if the data location changes

    What does a DOI look like? How do I create a DOI? What is an example of a data citation? See Preserve > Persistent Identifiers.


  6. Reviews of data and metadata

    Any data released by USGS, whether provided to support a scientific publication or for general use by the public, must be entered into the USGS Information Product Data System (IPDS) so that review and approval of the data and associated metadata can be documented. Review is necessary to ensure that the data are well documented and are as complete, consistent, accurate, and precise as needed to achieve the goals for which they were created. The IPDS tracking system ensures that established review procedures have been applied consistently to all approved data releases. Compliance with IPDS requirements is mandatory regardless of whether the final data are distributed by USGS or by another organization.

    Both metadata and data must be reviewed. The reviews may be carried out by one or more people, but reviewers will need to examine both data and metadata in order to understand the data and to ensure that the metadata accurately describe the data. To maintain objectivity, reviewers should not be chosen from the people who are working on the project. Copies of draft metadata, reviewer comments, and reconciliation notes should be uploaded to IPDS.

    The following "checklists" may be helpful to reviewers of data and metadata:


  7. A reliable and publicly available location where the data can be accessed (via the DOI)
  8. Data funded by the USGS must be released on a government server. This can take the form of a Science Center website, an approved data application, or a repository. Regardless, the release point should represent the components of a USGS “Trusted Digital Repository” (coming soon). Data releases in USGS will not all look the same.

    USGS ScienceBase offers one possible way to store and maintain your data, and offers assistance in data release.

    See USGS ScienceBase Data Release FAQs.

    Contact your USGS center or program for more information on their specific data release process.


  9. Availability of the released metadata describing the data in the USGS Science Data Catalog

    Your released data must be shared with the public and research communities through the USGS Science Data Catalog. This metadata catalog provides seamless access to USGS research and monitoring data from across the nation. Users have the ability to search, browse, or use a map-based interface to discover data. Data providers are assured the USGS Science Data Catalog meets White House Open Data reporting requirements for USGS; provides a Search and Discovery Tool that allows for metadata retrieval, visualization, download, and linking back to original data providers; offers a single source for USGS to serve its metadata to data.doi.gov, Data.gov, and OMB; helps ensure that USGS metadata meet requirements.

    To submit your metadata to the Science Data Catalog.

    • work with your USGS Center or Program to get your data release listed in the catalog.
    • contact sciencedatacatalog@usgs.gov if you do not know your center or program’s point of contact

Examples of data release across USGS:

Fitting it all together:

Figuring out a workflow for data release in USGS can be interesting. Here are some examples of workflows that have been developed: