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U.S. Geological Survey Manual

502.5Fundamental Science Practices: Safeguarding Unpublished U.S. Geological Survey Data, Information, and Associated Scientific Materials


OPR: Office of Science Quality and Integrity

Instruction: This replaces Survey Manual chapter 500.14 - Safeguard and Release of U.S. Geological Survey Data and Information, dated May 15, 1992.

1. Purpose. This chapter provides the requirements for safeguarding unpublished U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) science data and information, including unpublished deliberative and predecisional information, proprietary data and information, nonproprietary USGS data and information, and associated scientific materials (for example, physical samples). The term “unpublished” in this chapter refers to draft, interim, or background information and materials developed or collected and used to finalize USGS information products for approval and release.

2. References.

A. SM 205.18 - Authority to Approve Information Products

B. SM 318.1 - Freedom of Information Act

C. SM 319.1 - Privacy Act Program

D. SM 500.2 - Policy on Work for Non-Federal Agencies

E. SM 500.3 - Policy on Work for Other Federal Agencies

F. SM 500.5 - News Release and Media Relations Policy

G. SM 500.6 - American Indian and Alaska Native Sacred Sites

H. SM 500.11 - Obtaining Permission for Access to Private Lands

I. SM 205.13 - Delegations of Authority to Enter into Agreements and to Accept Contributions

J. SM 500.19 - Contributions and Grants to USGS from Outside Sources

K. SM 500.20 - Technology Transfer Authority

L. SM 500.25 - Scientific Integrity

M. SM 500.26 - Domestic Memorandum of Understanding

N. SM 500.27 - Intergovernmental Cooperation Act Agreements with State and Local Units of Government

O. SM 502.2 - Fundamental Science Practices: Planning and Conducting Data Collection and Research

P. SM 502.3 - Fundamental Science Practices: Peer Review

Q. SM 502.4 - Fundamental Science Practices: Review, Approval, and Release of Information Products

R. SM Part 1100 - Publishing

S. USGS General Records Disposition Schedule, Chapter 1300 - Publishing Records

T. USGS Records Disposition Schedules (Website)

U. USGS Information Quality Guidelines (Website)

3. Policy.

A. It is the policy of the USGS to conduct its activities and to make the results of its scientific and engineering investigations available in a manner that will best serve the whole public rather than the interest or benefit of any particular group, corporation, individual, or other entity. Preliminary release of USGS data or information, including early release of USGS publications, is not made exclusively to any group or individual (except as provided in 3.C below). The unpublished data and information that are gathered by USGS employees, volunteers, and contractors working on behalf of the USGS while conducting scientific and engineering investigations must not be publicly released unless the data and information meet the applicable requirements described and referenced in this chapter.

B. USGS Fundamental Science Practices (FSP) underlie USGS science activities, uphold the Bureau's scientific reputation, and underscore its mandate to provide reliable science to address pressing societal issues (SM 502.1). The Bureau’s rigorous quality assurance procedures embodied in the USGS FSP ensure that the results of USGS science activities have undergone an appropriate level of scrutiny and review, including peer review and Bureau approval. This process ensures that unbiased, reliable USGS data and information are released (SM 502.4). Unpublished data and information gathered through investigations and observations by USGS employees, contractors, and volunteers must not be disclosed until the information is made available to all, impartially and simultaneously, through Bureau-approved publication or other approved means of public release.

C. The phrase “not be disclosed until the information is made available to all” as used in this policy does not include disclosure to Federal, State, tribal, local, and governmental agencies and nongovernmental or academic organizations under certain circumstances. Unpublished data and information collected by the USGS must be made available to these agencies for example, under joint funding agreements or other collaborative arrangements or to an individual or group for the purpose of peer review or courtesy review (refer to section 2. References). When the results of an investigation are made available to such an agency, organization, or party, the USGS may make it conditional that by accepting the unpublished data or information the recipient is bound by the Bureau’s nondisclosure policy and agrees not to further disclose or release the information in any form until it has been approved and released by the USGS or by the funding or collaborating agency (refer to SM 502.3 and SM 502.4 for nondisclosure disclaimer statements). Particularly sensitive results, however, such as energy and mineral resource assessments and mineral commodity reports that typically have significant economic implications are not disclosed or shared in advance of public release because pre-release in these cases could result in unfair advantage or the perception of unfair advantage.

4. Deliberative and Predecisional Information.

A. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process allows a deliberative privilege exemption for communication documents that Federal agencies develop as part of their decision-making process. Drafts of documents used in the decision-making chain and prepared prior to the adoption of a final agency position are protected from disclosure. USGS data and information that have not undergone appropriate review and approval are considered documents that are deliberative and predecisional and must not be released. These documents, also considered by USGS to be unpublished data and information, encourage candid and frank discussion among scientists and agency officials and are components of dialogue and communication exchange that take place during the scientific process that leads to final decisions or products and approval for release. Authors, agency officials, and reviewers must be able to discuss issues freely and modify their conclusions or opinions based upon those discussions without concern for misrepresentation or misinterpretation due to inappropriate release.

B. Deliberative and predecisional USGS materials that must not be disclosed or released, even after the resulting information products have been approved and disseminated, include original and revised manuscript drafts; related documents, working papers, and other information gathered through investigations and observations; any required justifications and permissions; peer reviewer comments; courtesy reviews comments; editing comments; authors’ reconciliation of comments; related background materials or history records; personally identifiable information (including attributable reviewer comments); and other materials, documents, and communications exchanged during the preparation and development of USGS information products intended for publication. Release of these materials could compromise the USGS mission of providing unbiased, objective scientific information upon which other entities may base judgments and could cause the public harm if incorrect or out-of-context information were used for public policymaking or resource management. Therefore, whether requested, for example, under the Freedom of Information Act, the Information Quality Act, or other means of public inquiry, this deliberative and predecisional unpublished USGS information must not be released.

5. Proprietary Data and Information.

A. Prepared by the USGS for Other Federal Agencies. Proprietary data and information are sometimes gathered and analyzed by the USGS for other Federal agencies for which it performs work. This work may involve the release of USGS-prepared scientific or technical studies or reports to Federal agencies in recognition of the proprietary interest these agencies have. Such reports are considered to be unpublished by USGS and may not be cited or quoted except in follow-up reports to the same agency, or unless that agency releases the report to the public or authorizes USGS publication of the report (refer to SM 500.3).

B. Received from Private Sources. Geologic and geophysical data, such as property maps, drill records, and reserve estimates; water data, such as production and use of water; and biological data, such as bird-banding and endangered species data, that are supplied by private persons and corporations to the USGS voluntarily, in accordance with proprietary terms of contracts and in fulfillment of submittal requirements set forth in the authorizing legislation of the USGS and related regulations, are considered proprietary. These proprietary data and information, to the extent that they may be exempt from disclosure by law, must be carefully safeguarded against disclosure in accordance with USGS standards for transmittal and storage. Proprietary data and information offered voluntarily should not be accepted if they are not required to satisfy USGS needs. Proprietary data and information must not be published or otherwise disclosed outside designated entities in the Federal Government unless specific written permission is obtained from the individual or organization that furnished the information or unless specific statutes require disclosure. USGS representatives may not submit to any person or organization the written text of a draft information product, in whole or in part, based on the information supplied by the individual or the individual’s organization prior to public release of the reviewed and Bureau-approved product.

6. Release of Unpublished Nonproprietary USGS Data.

A. Some unpublished nonproprietary data, including monitoring and specific research data and other data gathered through investigations and observations may be released on a case-by-case basis, depending on the circumstances and need. For example, real-time and other data that have immediate or time-sensitive relevance to public or wildlife health and safety, such as warnings or alerts related to natural hazards forecasts, reports of streamflow conditions, and national security concerns. These data must be scientifically sound and technically reviewed according to USGS quality standards prior to release, and to the extent possible, release should have the concurrence of State or local officials who are charged with response or public announcements. Appropriate officials inside and outside the Bureau must be alerted in a timely manner about the planned release of the data and their implications or potential impact with regard to public health or safety.

B. When there is an immediate need for unpublished nonproprietary USGS data, such as discussed in 6.A above, and prompt publication is impossible or unlikely, approval of other methods of release is determined by and at the discretion of the Director of the USGS Office of Science Quality and Integrity in consultation with other USGS officials as appropriate. Such immediate release should include an applicable disclaimer statement of the provisional or preliminary nature of the data and notification that these data are subject to change.

7. Associated Scientific Materials (Physical Samples).

A. USGS scientists collect and study associated scientific materials (for example, physical samples) including water-quality, sediment, rock, fossil, core, and biological samples that are maintained as determined by the USGS. These associated materials and the records related to them, such as documentation on the method, location, and time of sample collection, and the results of analyses, are not released without obtaining the appropriate USGS approval or transferred unless, for example, through a valid technology transfer agreement (SM 500.20). Approval for release of physical samples will not be granted if the sample would be destroyed or degraded as a consequence of that release.

B. In some instances, associated scientific materials may be submitted to peer reviewers along with draft manuscripts for purposes of validation; in these cases, approval to submit the material is required and the USGS nondisclosure policy, which includes use of a disclaimer statement applies (refer to SM 502.3). Additionally, as for other USGS data and information, recordkeeping requirements regarding preservation and disposition of associated scientific materials and their related records must be followed (refer to USGS records schedules).



/s/ Diane K. Wade                                                                                                      12/19/2012
_____________________________________________                                       _______________
Diane K. Wade                                                                                                               Date
Associate Director for Administration and Enterprise Information
and Acting Associate Director for Human Capital

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