U.S. Geological Survey Manual
502.4 - Fundamental Science Practices: Review, Approval, and Release of Information Products
OPR: Office of Science Quality and Integrity
Instruction: This replaces Survey Manual (SM) chapter 502.4 – Fundamental Science Practices: Review, Approval, and Release of Information Products, dated December 11, 2011.
1. Purpose and Scope.
A. As a public agency, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has a responsibility to make the results of its scientific investigations widely available and at no cost to the public in the form of timely, technically sound, and professionally presented information products. USGS scientists are encouraged to publish their data and findings in ways that contribute to the most effective release of USGS science and best enhance the Bureau’s reputation for reliable science. This chapter provides the requirements and responsibilities for the appropriate review, approval, and release of science information products (including data, publications, and software).
B. This policy applies to Bureau science information products (SM 1100.1), whether they are published by the USGS or an outside entity. Information products that are generally excluded from this policy include news releases, letters to the editor, and opinion pieces or op-eds (unless stated otherwise in SM 500.5); poster session and presentation materials communicated as single-use representation of USGS work at scientific meetings, briefings, conferences, and hearing testimony; provisional (preliminary) data and emergency data (such as real-time or time-sensitive hazards data, information, and alerts); and satellite data.
A. Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated by Federal Agencies (Office of Office of Management and Budget (OMB) memorandum, February 22, 2002)
B. Open Data Policy—Managing Information as an Asset (OMB memorandum M-13-13, May 9, 2013)
C. Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research (Office of Science Technology and Policy (OSTP) memorandum, February 22, 2013)
D. Information Quality Guidelines Pursuant to Section 515 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001 (Department of the Interior, October 2, 2002)
E. SM 502.1 - Fundamental Science Practices: Foundation Policy
F. SM 502.2 - Fundamental Science Practices: Planning and Conducting Data Collection and Research
G. SM 502.3 - Fundamental Science Practices: Peer Review
H. SM 205.18 - Authority to Approve Information Products
I. SM 500.25 - Scientific Integrity
J. SM Part 1100 - Publishing
K. SM 500.5 - News Release and Media Relations Policy
L. SM 500.19- Contributions and Grants to USGS from Outside Sources
M. SM 550.1 - USGS Visual Identity System
N. SM 600.6 - Implementation and Administration of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act
O. SM 601.1- USGS Web Standards
P. SM 370.735.5- Outside Work and Interests
Q. 305 DM 3 - Integrity of Scientific and Scholarly Activities
R. USGS General Records Disposition Schedules
S. USGS Information Quality Guidelines (Web site)
T. Fundamental Science Practices of the USGS (Web site)
A. In accordance with USGS Fundamental Science Practices (FSP) requirements, all science information products (SM 1100.1) must be reviewed and approved for official release and dissemination, whether they are published by the USGS (SM 1100.3) or by an outside entity (SM 1100.4), if the author has full time, part time, or volunteer (including emeritus) USGS affiliation or shared affiliation (for example, between the USGS and a university). FSP processes for review and approval may vary for different kinds of information products but must be consistently applied throughout the USGS. Departmental and USGS scientific integrity policies (305 DM 3 and SM 500.25), including code of scientific conduct requirements, must be complied with by those involved in FSP review, approval, and release processes for USGS science information products. Review and approval requirements may be more stringent than those stated in this chapter, depending on the Science Center’s preference (refer to SM 502.1).
B. If during preparation, review, or approval, an information product is determined to be of a particularly sensitive nature, the appropriate Bureau executives and officials will be consulted. Issues or concerns of a sensitive nature include those that have current or future policy implications or that involve matters of national interest, security, or potential commercial gain, as well as those that are of a potentially litigious nature or are influential scientific information or highly influential scientific assessments (these OMB influential terms are defined in the OMB Final Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review). Appropriate officials from the Bureau and from other Federal and State agencies are alerted in a timely manner about these information products and their potential implications with regard to public health and safety or other concerns. Additionally, coordination and review will include the appropriate USGS Office of Communications and Publishing (OCAP) officials for policy-sensitive products as well as for those products that may be of such a level of visibility (i.e., highly visible) that a communication strategy is warranted to handle their release.
C. USGS information products do not recommend or appear to advocate or prescribe a particular public policy; however, some science-based recommendations are allowed (refer to Guidance on Advocacy and Recommendations in USGS Information Products). Information products released to the public contain no statements that suggest that the products do 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 manuscripts submitted for peer reviews; use of copyrighted material; and notices of preliminary (provisional) data, information, or software (refer to Guidance on Disclaimer Statements Allowed in USGS Science Information Products).
D. The internal USGS Information Product Data System (IPDS) is the Bureau’s official tracking system for managing and documenting the development steps of USGS information products and must be used (also refer to section 8). The IPDS is the official USGS designated and National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) approved record that documents compliance with FSP and is the dark archive (as described in the USGS Public Access Plan) for approved manuscripts (also commonly referred to as accepted manuscripts by some non-USGS outlets, such as peer-reviewed journals). Information products that are policy sensitive, OMB influential, or highly visible (as described in 3.B) must also be identified as such in the IPDS.
E. In order to identify USGS authored or funded publications, all authors employed or funded by the USGS are required to register for and obtain an Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCID; refer to http://orcid.org for registration instructions).
4. Review Requirements. USGS information products receive the reviews described below as appropriate prior to Bureau approval. The listing is not necessarily in sequential order, and some reviews may be completed concurrently or by a single reviewer.
A. Peer Review. Ensures the scientific quality of USGS information, as detailed in SM 502.3.
B. Data Review. Ensures the quality of data approved for release, as detailed in SM 502.8.
C. Metadata Review. Ensures the quality of the metadata associated with the product approved for release, as detailed in SM 502.7.
D. Policy Review. Is performed as part of the Bureau approval process (as outlined in 5.C) and ensures conformance with all USGS FSP and other pertinent USGS, Department, and Federal policies and with requirements for policy-sensitive products.
E. Methodology and Documentation Review. Ensures methods used to collect data and produce results are defensible and adequately documented (SM 502.2). Sufficient information is provided to allow the public to reproduce the results. This includes but is not limited to the data upon which scholarly conclusions are based (refer to SM 502.8) and the software code used to create the data or results. Information and data are preserved in accordance with requirements described in USGS records disposition schedules. Additional preservation requirements for data are described in SM 502.9.
F. Editorial Review. Ensures appropriate Bureau standards and quality assurance for accuracy and clarity of expression are met. Specifically, for publication series information products published by the USGS, editing is required as detailed in SM 1100.2. For information products published outside the USGS, editing is recommended but optional.
G. Collaborator/Partner Courtesy Review. Ensures collaborators and outside organizations that are in partnership with the USGS or have a direct collaborative agreement with the USGS in the research effort are afforded the opportunity for review at the discretion of the USGS. These courtesy reviews may occur prior to peer review, simultaneously with peer review, or immediately after peer review reconciliation, but in all cases this review occurs before Bureau approval. Collaborator/partner reviews must be treated carefully to avoid prejudicing the science because these reviews may represent a real or potential conflict of interest (refer to 4.H). In being afforded a collaborator/partner review, such parties are bound by the Bureau’s policy to uphold the strictest scientific ethics in ensuring confidentiality of the science that is being reviewed and to not disclose or divulge any results or conclusions or make any public statements regarding the science before it is published and released. Information products distributed for cooperator/partner review must carry a courtesy review disclaimer statement (refer to Guidance on Disclaimer Statements Allowed in USGS Science Information Products).
H. Conflict of Interest Review. Ensures peer reviews of scientific information are free of conflict of any personal, professional, or other interests that could impair the reviewer’s objectivity or could create an unfair competitive advantage for a person or organization. Conflict of interest is dealt with in accordance with established Department and USGS scientific integrity, codes of scientific conduct, and ethics requirements (refer to SM 500.25).
I. Impartiality and Nonadvocacy Review. Ensures information products present science-based, peer-reviewed facts and interpretations impartially. As stated above, USGS information products do not recommend or appear to advocate or prescribe a particular public policy; however, some science-based recommendations are allowed. Evaluations of alternative courses of action may be included in information products. Interpretations are presented as honestly and straightforwardly as possible, are without apparent bias, and contain no derogatory remarks. Conclusions are based on the best available data interpreted with sound scientific reasoning that avoids speculation. Products are effectively presented, and the tone is appropriate for ease of understanding by the intended audience. There is no implied competition with the private sector, nor do the results favor any particular entity. Commercial product endorsements are not permitted. Additional guidance is available at Guidance on Advocacy and Recommendations in USGS Information Products. Information products identified by the USGS as OMB influential require more planning and consideration with regard to peer review as described in SM 502.3.
J. Public Benefit and Access Review. Ensures the results of USGS investigations are made available in an impartial and objective manner that will best serve all the public rather than the special interests of any group or individual. USGS scholarly publications and associated data are discoverable online and provided free to the public as identified in the USGS Public Access Plan. Issues of intellectual property law, copyright (SM 1100.6), and restriction to public access of Federally funded research must be addressed and every effort made to ensure maximum visibility by publishing in the most appropriate medium and placing associated data in a Federal repository that provides free public access to the data. The need to maintain public access to USGS information will be balanced with the need to consider national security, privacy, confidentiality, and other concerns determined by the USGS. Access may also be restricted in accordance with USGS efforts to safeguard proprietary information as well as unpublished data and information that have not received the appropriate review and approval for release (refer to SM 502.5).
K. Supervisory Review. Occurs prior to peer review and ensures that any information product content, which might be considered sensitive, controversial, or OMB influential, is identified in order to alert and (or) identify any internal or external groups or agencies that might have particular and (or) immediate interest in such a product. In the event a product is identified as OMB influential, peer reviewers must be alerted prior to actually performing their review, and documentation about the planned peer review must be publicly posted on the USGS Peer Review Agenda (refer to section 5.A and SM 502.3).
L. Names Review. Ensures the accuracy of specialized technical names used, including geologic, geographic, biologic, and hydrologic names. This review may be performed separately or as part of the peer review or other review.
M. Natural Hazards and/or Public or Wildlife Health Review. Ensures review of information products that notify, alert, or identify forecasts or predictions of natural hazards (for example floods, earthquakes, landslides, or volcanic activity), or that have immediate or time-sensitive relevance to public or wildlife health warnings. These information products must be technically reviewed according to USGS quality standards or by qualified peers prior to release to ensure they are scientifically sound (SM 502.3). The level of review must reflect the scope and relevance of the product. To the extent possible, the product has the concurrence of State or local officials who are charged with response actions or public announcements.
N. Accessibility and Bureau Identity Review. Ensures Federal laws and guidelines regarding the accessibility of USGS information are followed (SM 600.6) and that information products conform to USGS Visual Identity System requirements (SM 550.1).
5. Approvals Requirements. All information products must receive general approvals, which include those of line supervisors and beyond, and approvals typically follow the organizational alignment of the senior USGS author, to include and subsequently receive Bureau approval before release.
A. Supervisor Approval to Proceed with Peer Review. This approval, which occurs prior to peer review, ensures selection of appropriate independent and qualified peer reviewers (for the work conducted by scientists they supervise). This approval, which also must be documented in the internal IPDS prior to initiation of peer review, includes the following:
(1) Determining the need for collaborator/partner review.
(2) Determining (in collaboration with the author and Science Center Director and through consultation with the Approving Official) whether information products should be considered influential scientific information or highly influential scientific assessments (as defined in the OMB Final Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review) and ensuring peer review planning documentation about influential USGS products is placed on the USGS Peer Review Agenda prior to peer review.
(3) Confirming that data associated with the information product have been handled in accordance with the project’s data management plan as described SM 502.9.
(4) Ensuring that the data upon which conclusions are reached will be made available free to the public before or commensurate with publication in accordance with the OMB May 9, 2013, memorandum M-13-13, Open Data Policy—Managing Information as an Asset and the OSTP February 22, 2013, memorandum, Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research requirements.
B. Science Center Director (or equivalent) Approval. This approval, which follows that of the author’s supervisor, ensures the overall standards for scientific quality are met and confirms the product is ready to submit for Bureau approval.
C. Bureau Approval. The authority for Bureau approval (previously referred to as “Director’s approval”) of USGS information products for release ultimately rests with the Director of the USGS, but this authority has been delegated to various designated Approving Officials in the Bureau. Bureau approval validates the scientific excellence of the information product and confirms that the appropriate USGS officials and offices have been notified with regard to potentially policy-sensitive or highly visible information products. Bureau approval ensures that all necessary reviews (refer to section 4) have been conducted and that the product is consistent with all pertinent USGS and Department policies. Bureau approval also confirms overall that the appropriate review, approval, and release requirements are followed to ensure the information product meets USGS science quality standards. This approval must be documented in the internal USGS IPDS. Delegations of authority for granting Bureau approval and additional requirements are described in SM 205.18.
6. Release and Dissemination. USGS science information products are published in ways that contribute to the most effective means of release and enhance the reputation of the Bureau. The opportunities for publishing in USGS and outside outlets are broad, including USGS publication series and Web pages, cooperating agency publications, audiovisual products, scientific journal articles and books, and articles in semitechnical or popular periodicals. All USGS information products released for public dissemination must follow procedures in accordance with the release outlet and access requirements as follows:
A. USGS Publication Series and Other Release Outlets. Use of the USGS publication series (SM 1100.3) and other approved USGS release outlets (for example data release, online databases or Web services as described in SM 502.8) ensures that Bureau science information products are made available in a consistent and uniform manner. Information products published by the USGS must conform to appropriate review and approval requirements detailed in this chapter, including conformance with established USGS publishing requirements and procedures for production and release (SM Part 1100 - Publishing).
B. Non-USGS Outlets. Non-USGS outlets (such as journals, scientific societies, universities, and commercial publishing houses; and publications of cooperating agencies) provide USGS authors with an additional means of conveying USGS science to a broad audience of scientists, to a limited audience of specialists, and to the general public. These outside entities can be effective in broadening the stature and impact of USGS science and in generating support and collaborative partnerships for USGS programs and scientists. Refer to SM 1100.4 for requirements on the use of outside publications.
C. News Media Outlets. News releases, opinion pieces, letters to the editor, and other media communications are governed by requirements detailed in chapter SM 500.5. Chapter SM 500.5 also provides additional requirements for news media products that are scientific articles published in science outlets such as journals and include book reviews, comments, replies, opinion pieces, or letters that specifically respond to previously published works by USGS authors and therefore must be reviewed and approved in accordance with USGS FSP requirements. The OCAP must be informed of anticipated Bureau approval and release of findings or data that may be especially newsworthy, have an impact on Federal Government policy, or contradict previous public understanding to ensure that the proper officials are notified and that media communication strategies are developed.
7. Responsibilities. Compliance with this policy is incumbent on all USGS employees and others working on behalf of the Bureau. Specific additional responsibilities are as follows:
A. Director.The USGS Director has final authority and responsibility for the excellence, integrity, and objectivity of USGS science information products. In executing this authority and responsibility, the Director delegates Bureau approving authority and consults with the Executive Leadership Team (ELT), which is a deliberative team composed of senior policy-level leaders of the major Bureau components that makes recommendations to ensure the successful delivery of the USGS mission.
B. Associate Directors and Regional Directors.Associate Directors and Regional Directors set FSP policy for review, approval, and release practices and collaborate with one another and with Science Center Directors in their areas regarding the content and application of these practices to ensure consistency. Regional Directors, in collaboration with the Office of Science Quality and Integrity (OSQI), execute and ensure compliance with the FSP policies and practices governing review, approval, and release. Regional Directors also work with the OSQI to mediate or assist in resolving review, approval, and release issues that cannot be resolved directly among Science Center Directors, approving officials, and others. Associate Directors and Regional Directors ensure that those who have Bureau approval authority are aware of policy-sensitive, highly visible, or OMB influential products that are produced within their areas. The decision to restrict access and distribution to any science information will be made by the appropriate Associate Director in consultation with other members of the ELT. Regional Directors also work with the OCAP and other appropriate USGS offices and officials to develop communications strategies with regards to any product that may contain potentially sensitive, controversial, or highly visible content.
C. Office of Science Quality and Integrity. The OSQI, in collaboration with Associate Directors and Regional Directors, executes the FSP policy and practices governing review, approval, and release of science information products. This office also collaborates with the ELT regarding the development and application of consistent USGS review, approval, and release practices and maintains the policy documents and procedures that pertain to FSP. On behalf of the USGS Director, the Director of the OSQI appoints Bureau Approving Officials (BAOs) who approve those information products for which they have been delegated approval authority (SM 205.18).
D. Science Center Directors. Science Center Directors ensure that standards for scientific quality are met, for example, ensuring that methodology is documented and accepted metadata standards are used and all appropriate reviews identified above have been performed. Science Center Directors (or their equivalent) have delegated Bureau approval authority for some information products and can redelegate this authority to a designee (SM 205.18). Science Center Directors determine if they can approve an information product or if the product needs to be approved by a BAO in the OSQI. Science Center Directors ensure that only properly peer reviewed products (SM 502.3) are approved by them or forwarded to a BAO for approval (refer to 5.B). They alert appropriate officials (such as the Regional Directors and BAOs) and offices (including the OCAP) about policy-sensitive, highly visible, or OMB influential information products. Science Center Directors contact their respective Regional Directors for assistance if necessary in resolving issues with regard to review, approval, and release. They ensure that information products produced in their centers conform to USGS publishing requirements and USGS records management requirements (refer to section 8).
E. Approving Officials. Approving Officials, including Science Center Directors (or equivalent) and BAOs in the OSQI, ensure that USGS standards for scientific and editorial quality are followed by confirming that appropriate FSP requirements are met in accordance with this chapter before they grant Bureau approval (SM 205.18). Approving Officials may require that an information product receive additional peer, policy, editorial, or other reviews as necessary to ensure the ultimate quality of the product. Approving officials may make the final decision related to selection of the appropriate USGS publication series or non-USGS release outlet. They confirm that appropriate USGS officials and offices (including the OCAP) have been notified with regard to policy-sensitive, highly visible, or OMB influential information products. They interact with Regional Directors, Science Center Directors, supervisors, authors, the OCAP’s Science Publishing Network (SPN) staff, and others in the conduct of their approval responsibilities. Science Center Directors may at their discretion request a BAO approve any science information product. BAOs conduct consistent and uniform approval practices across the Bureau and communicate effectively with one another to share knowledge and expertise relative to review, approval, and release practices and the Bureau approval responsibility, one acting on behalf of another, as needed. If necessary, BAOs contact the respective Regional Director and the Director of the OSQI for assistance in resolving issues.
F. Authors’ Supervisors. Supervisors have initial responsibility in management to ensure the quality of science information products prepared by authors they supervise and confirm that the appropriate reviews, such as peer review and editorial review (as identified in section 4), occur and that review comments are adequately addressed, prior to granting supervisory approval. For USGS publication series information products, they assess peer reviews and author reconciliation before manuscripts are submitted to the SPN for editorial review. They inform the Science Center Director about any product content that might be policy sensitive, highly visible, or OMB influential prior to peer review. They facilitate forwarding information products for Bureau approval in a timely manner, for example, well in advance of the date due to the publisher, leaving enough time for any needed changes before the product is released or disseminated.
G. Authors. The senior USGS author or the first USGS author, in instances of collaborative non-USGS publications (SM 1100.5), is responsible for ensuring that the appropriate review and approval for their information product occurs. Authors are responsible for ensuring that their information product is not published before it has received Bureau approval. Authors are also responsible for the following:
(1) Creating the information product record in the IPDS before initiation of peer review.
(2) Ensuring that policy-sensitive, highly visible, or OMB influential products are brought to the attention of their supervisor or manager.
(3) Considering and providing written reconciliation of peer review comments.
(4) Ensuring appropriate editorial review requirements are met and that plans for publishing USGS series information products are coordinated with the SPN.
(5) Collaborating with their Science Center Director, Supervisor, and approving official to ensure the reconciled information product receives Bureau approval.
(6) Ensuring that enough time is allotted for review, reconciliation (such as of peer review comments), and revision prior to submitting the product for release.
(7) Ensuring that the final Bureau approved version of the information product is in the IPDS.
(8) Ensuring that the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) for the publication is added to the IPDS prior to completing the IPDS dissemination step.
(9) Informing their supervisor, Science Center Director, and the Approving Official if substantial changes are made to the manuscript after Bureau approval, to determine whether further review and approval is warranted.
(10) Placing the author’s draft manuscript (also known as the accepted manuscript by peer-reviewed journals) in the IPDS (refer to 6.D).
(11) Consulting with their supervisor and their local SPN Publishing Service Center staff for requirements on the production and release of USGS series information products.
H. Office of Communications and Publishing. The OCAP is responsible for developing communication strategies, plans, and procedures to ensure appropriate notification of sensitive or controversial products; for broad dissemination and exposure of USGS science; and for managing the Bureau’s publishing activities. The Associate Director for the OCAP collaborates with the ELT regarding communication needs for USGS information products. The OCAP advises Science Center Directors and others in the Bureau on communications strategies for pending information products that are likely to be notable, policy sensitive, or of high visibility and high impact to the scientific community, the public, or a specific industry or interest. The SPN ensures publishing efficiencies and consistent application of publishing processes and requirements for USGS publication series and coordinate regularly with one another and with authors in providing support of Bureau publishing activities from consultation regarding information product design and media to editorial review, production, and release of the finished product.
8. Documentation and Recordkeeping.
A. Development steps for information products as described at /fsp/product_dev_steps.asp must be documented and maintained in the internal IPDS (refer to 3.D above) in accordance with USGS Records Disposition Schedules recordkeeping requirements.
B. Published USGS information products and information products and articles published by outside sources must include metadata information as required by SM 502.8.
C. IPDS documentation must include the final approved manuscript (also referred to as the accepted manuscript), which is retained as part of the permanent IPDS records. The USGS must comply with NARA formats for records deemed to be permanent (refer to National Archives Tables of File Formats, Appendix A). Other IPDS documentation, such as that associated with peer review, editorial review, other appropriate review and approval concurrences, and consent or permission of the copyright owners for using copyrighted materials in USGS information products (refer to SM 1100.6), are temporary records to be disposed of in accordance with requirements in Chapter 1300 of the USGS General Records Disposition Schedule.
D. The Digital Object Identifier (DOI) or other persistent digital identifier for USGS funded or authored journal publications and USGS publication series information products must be entered into the IPDS to ensure USGS Publications Warehouse staff can obtain final bibliographic metadata, including the title, author(s), and publication date, from the non-USGS publisher. The publication date is essential in identifying the start of the 12-month embargo period (if one applies) in the USGS Publications Warehouse for purposes of providing free public access as discussed in section 6.D. For USGS publication series products, the DOI is assigned and entered into the IPDS through an automated process and is submitted (to www.crossref.org/) for registration together with the final bibliographic metadata entered into the IPDS by SPN staff.
E. Classified information (for example, materials related to national security) is excluded from being entered or maintained in the IPDS.
F. The official record copy for USGS series publications and access to many other USGS science information products published in non-USGS outlets is available through the USGS Publications Warehouse, the Bureau’s electronic publications database.
/s/ Jose R. Aragon 11/03/2016
Jose R. Aragon Date
Associate Director for Administration
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