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USGS Data Management

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Publish/Share > Data Release
U.S. Geological Survey Data Lifecycle Diagram Plan Acquire 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).

USGS Office of Science Quality and Integrity (OSQI) Instructional Memoranda (IM)

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 reference a digital object. Persistent identifiers enable a user to access the digital resource via a permanent, long-term link. While there are several standard persistent identifier systems, the most relevant to USGS are Digital Object Identifiers (DOI). Digital Object Identifiers must be applied to all data being released in USGS. Digital Object Identifiers are especially useful when citing your data. Like a publication, an emerging practice is to 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. USGS FSP-compliant peer review of data and metadata, documented in USGS Information Product Data System (IPDS)
  7. USGS employees publishing manuscripts or releasing data are required to use IPDS an internal application for tracking the production of any published work or other information product, whether for the USGS or an outside organization according to USGS Fundamental Science Practices (FSP).
    Both metadata and data are required to undergo a review. The same person can review both, which is helpful since data and metadata are interrelated. Just be sure the reviewer is not associated with the project the data is originating from.

    Two recommended checklists that will guide a reviewer for your data release:

    Interpretive versus non-interpretive information products
    USGS Fundamental Science Practices provides a decision tree [PDF] to help clarify when an information product is non-interpretive or interpretive. More information about the differences is available at the Web site Fundamental Science Practices (FSP) entitled “Distinctions Between New Research or Interpretive Information Products and Previously Published or Noninterpretive Information Products”.

  8. A reliable and publicly available location where the data can be accessed (via the DOI)
  9. 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.

  10. 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,, 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 if you do not know your center or program’s point of contact

  11. 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:

    What the U.S. Geological Survey Manual Says:

    The USGS Instructional Memoradum IM OSQI 2015-03 Fundamental Science Practices: Review and Approval of Scientific Data for Release stipulates data must be approved before release and provides details on what is required to obtain approval to publish or release data to the public.

    So what to do?

    Place your data on one of the existing USGS data portals, place it on one of the data services maintained by your science center for that purpose, or place it on your project public Web site. Whichever option you choose, the data must meet all FSP requirements related to data release, metadata and preservation.

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