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U.S. Geological Survey Manual

500.24 - Policy for Release of Computer Databases and Computer Programs


OPR - Director's Office/Information Systems Division

1. Purpose. This chapter addresses the release of Director's approved or provisional databases and computer programs. For further information on the release of information see SM 500.14.

2. Authority. 43 U.S.C. 41, 43 U.S.C. 45, 44 U.S.C. 1318, 44 U.S.C. 1320.

3. Definitions.

A. Computer Program. A set of instructions suitable for processing by a computer. A computer program may be in the form of source code or executable code.

B. Data. Uninterpreted observations or measurements. Those addressed in this document are stored in a computer file or database.

C. Information. Interpreted results of investigations or observations.

D. Database. A collection of interrelated data and information items stored together to serve one or more applications.

E. Director's Approved Database. A database compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) that has received approval by the Director for publication or release. Director's approval of a database for publication will be given only if it meets the quality guidelines set forth in this chapter. With Director's approval, a database may be released to the public on magnetic, optical, or other computer-media or may be accessible via telecommunications. (See paragraph 5.A.(1) for procedures to obtain Director's approval).

F. Provisional Database. A provisional database has not received Director's approval for external distribution but meets the minimum criteria as specified in section 5.A.(2).

G. Internal Database. A database that is designed and maintained for internal USGS use only.

H. Proprietary Database. An internal database containing proprietary information obtained from private sources, which must not be published or otherwise disclosed outside of the Federal Government without specific written permission from the source (see SM 500.14).

I. Database Manager. A database manager is the USGS employee designated by the appropriate Division or Bureau authority. All databases approved for public access must have a database manager.

4. Policy. It is USGS policy to improve dissemination of the knowledge developed by the Bureau's information and research programs so as to enhance timely public access to earth science information and technologies. It is also USGS policy to make this information available to all interested parties at the same time. This is achieved wherever possible by making USGS databases and computer programs available to the public. Further, informal and internal exchange of data and computer programs promotes information dissemination and basic research in support of the USGS mission.

5. Administrative Provisions.

A. Computer Databases. There are two types of databases designed for public release: Director's approved databases and provisional databases. In addition, there are internal databases designed and maintained for internal USGS use only. Access to and retrievals from internal databases are controlled by the database manager.

(1) Director's Approved Databases. Data and information in databases that have received Director's approval for public access may be transferred out of the database either electronically or on magnetic or other media. A charge may be made for personnel, computer and telecommunication resources or media cost to be determined in accordance with the USGS policy of recovering reproduction and distribution costs.

To receive Director's approval, databases must meet the following minimum requirements:

(a) Contain only data that have undergone rigorous, documented quality assurance. In cases where the data were not collected by the USGS, specific information must accompany the data stating its origin, and the data must have undergone rigorous quality assurance checks by the USGS or the originating organization.

(b) Adequately supported by the operating division by designating a database manager to ensure system maintenance, user documentation, and access.

(c) Be subjected to periodic review under the direction of the database manager to assure that the data have been properly and accurately entered.

To establish a Director's approved database, the database manager must submit a written request to the Division Chief demonstrating that the minimum requirements have been met. The request should document the purpose and scope of the database, data collection methods, quality control methods, description of data elements, instructions for operating any software that may accompany the data set, and user support.

(2) Provisional Databases. Provisional databases must meet the following minimum criteria: Documentation of the origin of data, data collection method, peer review process, and database description. Division Chiefs may specify additional criteria as appropriate.

B. Computer Programs. USGS employees who use computers in their work create computer programs to solve complex computational problems, manipulate data sets, or perform other tasks. Many of these computer programs are of interest to scientists, engineers, and managers outside the USGS. Some programs are described in detail in published reports, while others are used to perform some useful task but are not described in detail or published.

(1) Release of Published Programs. Some computer programs created by the USGS documented in published reports that describe the results of scientific investigations. Such documentation is a necessary part of the scientific process. Other computer programs are judged to have broad use outside of the USGS, and for this reason, they are separately documented in published reports. The documentation should include an overview of the program's functionality, a description of the programming language, data format specifications, and instructions for operating the program. The Bulletin series is designated as the formal in-house vehicle for published reports. Other series, such as Open-File Reports, may be used as appropriate.

Specific header information must accompany each program, when published computer programs are made available to the public via telecommunications access, or by any other means of distribution, such as magnetic disk, tape, or optical disk. (See Procedures and Responsibilities section.)

The requester will reimburse the USGS for the cost of personnel, computer and telecommunications resources, or for the cost of the disk, tape, or other media forms upon which the computer program is conveyed.

(2) Informal Exchange of Computer Programs. Many computer programs developed in the course of scientific investigations are of interest to colleagues in and outside the USGS. Many such programs are shared among colleagues, much as ideas and tools are shared. The USGS endorses the informal exchange of computer programs. Because many such programs may not have been formally documented, tested, reviewed, or used, it is important to attach appropriate disclaimers and header information before they are conveyed to colleagues for use. Each computer program made available to colleagues via written or electronic means, including memoranda, letter, telecommunications, or by magnetic disk, tape, or optical disk, should carry specified disclaimer and header information. (See Procedures and Responsibilities section.)

(3) Proprietary Software Programs. Commercially procured software programs incorporated into software programs developed by the USGS may not be duplicated, sold or released to the public without special licensing or other written authorization from the copyright holder.

6. Procedures and Responsibilities.

A. Computer Databases.

(1) Disclaimer. All databases released by the USGS must have one of the following disclaimers. Additional information such as the nonendorsement of commercial products may be added as appropriate.

(a) Disclaimer for a Director's Approved Database. "This database, identified as , has been approved for release and publication by the Director of the 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, it is released on condition that neither the USGS nor the United States Government may be held liable for any damages resulting from its authorized or unauthorized use."

(b) Disclaimer for a Provisional Database. "The data you have secured from the USGS database identified as have not received Director's approval and as such are provisional and subject to revision. The data are released on the condition that neither the USGS nor the United States Government may be held liable for any damages resulting from its authorized or unauthorized use."

(2) Text. Director's approved and provisional databases that are distributed include a text describing the origin of data, data collection method, peer review process, and database documentation. Text associated with a database must be approved by the appropriate Division Chief before the database is released.

(3) Proprietary software. Proprietary software may not be provided with databases unless the USGS has paid the appropriate licensing fees and obtained written authorization from the owner that the software may be released and/or used (with appropriate disclaimers or acknowledgments) by the USGS. In the case where fees are not required for the release and distribution of proprietary software in USGS databases, written permission from the publisher is recommended.

B. Computer Programs.

(1) Published Programs. The author is responsible for assuring that the following header information is typed on a label physically attached to the cover of the medium containing the published program and embedded in the medium itself:

(a) USGS Computer Program (name).

(b) Use of this program is described in USGS Report (full bib. reference), by (author of program).

(c) Program written in (programming language); version or release number and date of last revision .

(d) Program ran on (exact description of computer and operating system).

(e) Code form of the program is object, source, or both?

(2) Informal Exchange of Computer Programs. The author is responsible for assuring that the following information is typed on a label physically attached to the cover and embedded in the medium of any computer program that is distributed informally:

(a) USGS preliminary computer program for .

(b) Written by (name of the author).

(c) Written in (programming language); version or release number and date of last revision .

(d) Program ran on (exact description of computer and operating system).

(e) The source code is/is not available from .

All computer programs that are published or exchanged informally must be accompanied by the following disclaimer statement:

"Although this program has been used by the USGS, no warranty, expressed or implied, is made by the USGS or the United States Government as to the accuracy and functioning of the program and related program material nor shall the fact of distribution constitute any such warranty, and no responsibility is assumed by the USGS in connection therewith."

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Last modification: 30-Aug-2017@11:00 (bt)