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Guidance on Disclaimer Statements Allowed in USGS Science Information Products

Updated August 2016

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Survey Manual (SM) Chapter SM 502.4 - Fundamental Science Practices: Review, Approval, and Release of USGS Information Products states: "Information products released to the public contain no statements that suggest that the product does not meet USGS standards of scientific excellence, integrity, and objectivity. Certain information statements or disclaimers not related to scientific quality may be used, such as those regarding nonendorsement of commercial products and services, nondisclosure of peer reviews, notice of copyrighted information, and preliminary data, databases and computer programs."

In accordance with SM 502.4 and other Bureau policy, including applicable SM Instructional Memorandums (IM), some disclaimers or information statements not related to scientific quality are acceptable and allowed in USGS science information products distributed or released either prior to or after Bureau approval to convey specific messages to recipients of the products. The disclaimer statements provided below, including circumstances when it is appropriate to use them, have been reviewed and endorsed by the Bureau Approving Officials (BAOs) in the USGS Office of Science Quality and Integrity (OSQI).

These statements include but are not limited to issues related to dissemination of new, interpretive information, requirements of other entities over whom USGS has no authority, and lack of warranty as to the use of products and applications. In some cases, the statements are derived from USGS, Departmental, or other Federal Government policy and in other cases, from precedent set through extended historical use in the Bureau. The guiding criterion in using a disclaimer statement is that the limitations on the control USGS has exercised during the development or dissemination of the product can be stated but language suggesting overall lack of quality cannot be used.

Placement of these statements may vary depending on the product. For example, in manuscripts submitted to external entities for peer review or courtesy review, at a minimum the disclaimer statement must appear on the title page of the manuscript (at the bottom or in the footer of the page, in at least 8 point type) but may also be included on all pages. Statements, such as the nonendorsement and copyrighted materials statements that are used in book-style USGS series publications appear on the back-of-title page of the product. Placement of other disclaimer statements below (for example, those related to software programs, map products, and collected works) may appear on an opening screen, each map sheet, or the first or all pages of a document as appropriate.

The BAOs will continue to apply case-by-case evaluation of these and other disclaimers used in the Bureau to ensure that the statements convey the appropriate message, and this document will be updated as necessary. USGS authors may direct questions about using these disclaimers and others to all BAOs at GS-W-BAO@usgs.gov or to the particular BAO with whom they work.

  1. Approved data released to the public
  2. Manuscripts submitted for peer review
  3. Nonendorsement of commercial products and services
  4. Copyrighted materials used in USGS information products
  5. Databases and software
  6. Report and map products
  7. Collected works of which portions have not undergone USGS review and approval
  8. Publications of cooperator agencies in which USGS authors publish
  9. Disclaimers that may be required by cooperator agencies in external publications co-authored with USGS scientists
  10. Manuscripts submitted for courtesy review
  11. Preliminary (provisional) data, information, or software
  12. Presentation materials - posters used in poster sessions and slide presentations

  1. Approved data released to the public:
    • "Unless otherwise stated, all data, metadata and related materials are considered to satisfy the quality standards relative to the purpose for which the data were collected. Although these data and associated metadata have been reviewed for accuracy and completeness and approved for release by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), no warranty expressed or implied is made regarding the display or utility of the data on any other system or for general or scientific purposes, nor shall the act of distribution constitute any such warranty."
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  2. Manuscripts submitted for peer review (refer to SM 502.3 and OMB Peer Review Bulletin):
    • "This draft manuscript is distributed solely for purposes of scientific peer review. Its content is deliberative and predecisional, so it must not be disclosed or released by reviewers. Because the manuscript has not yet been approved for publication by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), it does not represent any official USGS finding or policy."
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  3. Nonendorsement of commercial products and services (refer to SM 1100.3, Appendix A):
    • "Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government."
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  4. Copyrighted materials used in USGS information products (refer to SM 1100.6):
    • "Although this information product, for the most part, is in the public domain, it also may contain copyrighted materials as noted in the text. Permission to reproduce copyrighted items must be secured from the copyright owner."
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  5. Databases and software (refer to IM OSQI 2015-03 and IM OSQI 2015-05):
    • Approved database:
      • "This database, identified as [database name], has been approved for release by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Although this database has been subjected to rigorous review and is substantially complete, the USGS reserves the right to revise the data pursuant to further analysis and review. Furthermore, the database is released on condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from its authorized or unauthorized use."
    • Provisional database:
      • "The data you have secured from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) database identified as [database name] have not received USGS approval and as such are provisional and subject to revision. The data are released on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from its authorized or unauthorized use."
    • Approved software:
      • "This software has been approved for release by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Although the software has been subjected to rigorous review, the USGS reserves the right to update the software as needed pursuant to further analysis and review. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made by the USGS or the U.S. Government as to the functionality of the software and related material nor shall the fact of release constitute any such warranty. Furthermore, the software is released on condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from its authorized or unauthorized use."
    • Processed data:
      • "Although these data have been processed successfully on a computer system at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), no warranty expressed or implied is made regarding the display or utility of the data on any other system or for general or scientific purposes, nor shall the act of distribution constitute any such warranty. The USGS or the U.S. Government shall not be held liable for improper or incorrect use of the data described and/or contained herein."

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  6. Report and map products:
    • Map interpretation to prevent misuse:
      • "Not for navigational use."
    • Map or report prepared under a contract or grant:
      • "This report [map] was prepared under [contract to] [a grant from] the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Opinions and conclusions expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of the USGS."
    • Products that provide flood-inundation information:
      • "Inundated areas shown should not be used for navigation, regulatory, permitting, or other legal purposes. The U.S. Geological Survey provides these maps "as-is" for a quick reference, emergency planning tool but assumes no legal liability or responsibility resulting from the use of this information."
    • Products that provide natural hazards information:
      Note that following disclaimer can be modified for use with any natural hazard (such as earthquakes, slides, debris flows, avalanches, and volcanic hazards) by inserting the applicable wording.
      • "The suggestions and illustrations included in this [information or map product] are intended to improve [hazard name] awareness and preparedness; however, they do not guarantee the safety of an individual or structure. The contributors and sponsors of this product do not assume liability for any injury, death, property damage, or other effects of the [hazard name]."

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  7. Collected works of which portions have not undergone USGS review and approval:
    • "The contributions by non-U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) authors in this volume are published as they were submitted. Contributions authored entirely by non-USGS authors do not represent the views or position of the USGS or the U.S. Government and are published solely as part of this volume."
    • "This report summarizes discussion at [event name]. This event was co-sponsored by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and [co-sponsoring agency name]. Comments made by speakers not affiliated with the USGS do not represent the views or position of the USGS."

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  8. Publications of cooperator agencies in which USGS authors publish:
    Publications of cooperator agencies such as USFWS, USEPA, NOAA, etc., commonly require inclusion of disclaimer statements in the front matter of their reports. The following disclaimers do not negate the backing of the USGS for the content of Bureau-approved information products co-authored with USGS authors. As a result, these types of disclaimers are allowed.
    • Example 1:
      • "This publication does not necessarily represent the views of (agency name)".
    • Example 2:
      • "This publication represents the views of the authors and does not necessarily represent the views of (agency name)".
    • Example 3:
      • "The report content does not necessarily reflect the views and policies of (agency name)".

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  9. Disclaimers that may be required by cooperator agencies in external publications co-authored with USGS scientists:
    In these cases, external publications refer to journals, proceedings, books, and so on, that are not cooperator products. For these publications, disclaimers cannot imply that the USGS does not support Bureau-approved information products co-authored by USGS authors. When cooperator agencies require disclaimers that imply lack of agency backing, USGS authors should work with their approving officials and the external agency authors requiring the disclaimer to modify the disclaimer so it does not appear to include by inference USGS co-authors. If no agreement can be reached, add the following to the text after the agency disclaimer that appears to include USGS authors: "This product (article, paper, etc.) has been peer reviewed and approved for publication consistent with USGS Fundamental Science Practices (http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/1367/)."
    • Example required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:
      • "The findings and conclusions in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service."
        This disclaimer is allowed because it does not imply separation of the USGS authors from the Bureau approval process.
    • General example 1:
      • "The views and conclusions in this article represent the views solely of the authors from [agency name] but do represent the views of the U.S. Geological Survey."
        This disclaimer is allowed because it does not separate the USGS authors from Bureau approval.
    • General example 2:
      • "The views and conclusions in this article are solely those of the authors."
        This disclaimer is not allowed because it implies separation of USGS authors from the Bureau approval process. The disclaimer needs to be modified (as shown in General example 1) so it does not appear to include by inference USGS co-authors.

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  10. Manuscripts submitted for courtesy review:
    • "This draft manuscript is distributed solely for purposes of courtesy review and comments received will be addressed and treated as appropriate to ensure there is no conflict of interest. Its content is deliberative and predecisional, so it must not be disclosed or released by reviewers. Because the manuscript has not yet been approved for publication by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), it does not represent any official USGS finding or policy."
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  11. Preliminary (provisional) data, information, or software:
    • "These data are preliminary or provisional and are subject to revision. They are being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The data have not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and are provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the data."
    • "This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information."
    • "This software is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The software has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). No warranty, expressed or implied, is made by the USGS or the U.S. Government as to the functionality of the software and related material nor shall the fact of release constitute any such warranty. The software is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the software."

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  12. Presentation materials - posters used in poster sessions and slide presentations (refer to SM 205.18):
    • Poster sessions and presentation title slides:
      • This information is preliminary and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information is provided on the condition that neither the U.S. Geological Survey nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information."
    • All subsequent presentation slides:
      • "Preliminary Information-Subject to Revision. Not for Citation or Distribution"

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