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U.S. Geological Survey Manual


502.7 – Fundamental Science Practices: Metadata for USGS Scientific Information Products Including Data


OPR: Office of Science Quality and Integrity

Instruction: This is a new Survey Manual (SM) chapter that replaces Instructional Memorandum (IM) OSQI-2015-02, issued February 19, 2015.

1. Purpose and Scope.

A.  This chapter provides the metadata requirements for U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientific information products (includes USGS series publications and outside scholarly publications such as journal articles) and scientific data (includes data in datasets and databases) that are Bureau-approved for release.  This chapter also provides guidance for complying with appropriate USGS and other Federal standards, such as the metadata standards endorsed by the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC), the interagency committee that provides metadata guidance for all Federal Government scientific data.

B.  Metadata are descriptive elements in a standardized format that are necessary for identification, discovery, access, and use of information products, including data and publications.  Metadata answer fundamental questions such as who, what, when, where, why, and how; provide critical information to promote scientific collaboration; facilitate discovery; and enable effective use of data and information products.  Metadata aid in the accurate interpretation of data, describe the nature and quality of data, and augment the inherent value of data and associated information products.  Metadata also describe the content and context of the associated product to increase its usefulness.

C.  This chapter does not address software code documentation (metadata).  Requirements for USGS scientific software are described in SM 502.6.

2.  References.

A. Open Data Policy—Managing Data as an Asset (Office of Management and Budget (OMB) memorandum, May 9, 2013)
B. Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research (Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) memorandum, 22 February 2013)
C. Coordinating Geographic Data Acquisition and Access: The National Spatial Data Infrastructure (Executive Order 12906)
D. 305 DM 3 – Integrity of Scientific and Scholarly Activities
E. 378 DM 1 – Data Resource Management
F. SM 502.1 – Fundamental Science Practices: Foundation Policy
G. SM 502.2 – Fundamental Science Practices: Planning and Conducting Data Collection and Research
H. SM 502.4 – Fundamental Science Practices: Review, Approval, and Release of Information Products
I. SM 502.5 – Fundamental Science Practices: Safeguarding Unpublished USGS Data, Information, and Associated Scientific Materials
J. SM 502.6 – Fundamental Science Practices: Scientific Data Management
K. SM 502.8 – Fundamental Science Practices: Review and Approval of Scientific Data for Release
L. SM 502.9 – Fundamental Science Practices: Preservation Requirements for Scientific Data
M. SM 600.5 – Information Technology Systems Security - General Requirements
N. SM 601.1 – USGS Web Standards
O. SM 1100.1 – Information Product Planning
P. SM 1100.3 – USGS Publication Series
Q. SM 1100.4 – Use of Outside Publications, Including Abstracts
R. USGS Records Disposition Schedules
S. USGS Data Management Web site
T. USGS Public Access Plan

3.  Policy.

A.  Metadata must accompany all USGS scientific data and other information products described in this chapter.  The content and format of metadata depend upon the type of data or information product being described.  When data and other information products are digitally released, metadata must include an appropriate persistent identifier for the product, such as a Digital Object Identifier (DOI), unless public access to the product is restricted (for example, due to security, privacy, confidentiality, or other constraints).  Metadata records are to be developed in a standardized way that enables users to understand the context and to evaluate the usefulness of the data or information product.  Metadata records must be updated as needed to reflect changes and to ensure that links are functioning and continue to point to the intended files.  Metadata must be generated in a machine-readable form to enhance the transfer of information between systems and applications.  Refer to for additional guidance related to metadata. Additional data release requirements are described in SM 502.8

B.  A minimum of one metadata review by a qualified reviewer is required for all USGS scientific data and other information products approved for release.  Metadata review includes checking for compliance with metadata standards (by using a recommended metadata validation tool when available) and performing quality checks.  The metadata review can be conducted either as part of the peer review or data review, or can be conducted separately as appropriate.  A report of all metadata reviews (reviewer comments and how they were reconciled) must be included in the package placed in the internal USGS Information Product Data System (IPDS) that is submitted for Bureau approval.

4. Creating Metadata: General Guidelines.

A. Data. Metadata must be created for virtually all scientific data prior to approval and release of the data as a USGS information product; however, emergency data do not require metadata as also stated in SM 502.8.  In addition to the metadata records that describe data, metadata records describing, for example, the actual databases and Web data services in which the data are included are also required.  The metadata record for these data products is updated throughout the project; for instance, metadata should be created at the start of data collection, updated during the course of the project, and updated, reviewed, and finalized at the end of the project.  Metadata, like the data to which they apply, are Federal records and must be maintained with the project materials.  A data metadata record includes information such as who produced the data and why, methodologies and citations, collection and processing methods, definitions of entities and attributes, geographic location, and any access or use constraints, all of which facilitate evaluation of the data and information for use.  A data metadata record also includes, but is not limited to, authorship, title, abstract and purpose, theme keywords, data quality, temporal extent, and physical location.  Refer to additional guidance on developing metadata for scientific data found on the Data Management Web site (  A checklist that provides guidelines to reviewers of metadata for scientific data is also available.

(1) Metadata records for scientific data must comply with standards such as the FGDC Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata, the International Organization for Standardization suite of standards, or other USGS endorsed FCDC standards (refer to  Extensions to the standards exist, and those FGDC-approved extensions or profiles that apply must be used.  Similarly, any extensions in the ISO suite of standards that apply must be used.  In the event an official FGDC metadata standard endorsement transition occurs, all new metadata records for the data must comply with that new standard.

(2) Metadata elements that comply with an applicable FGDC or ISO standard appropriate for the data must be completed.  There are both mandatory and optional elements in these standards. Mandatory elements apply to all scientific data and must be included.  Use all appropriate optional metadata elements when they apply to the data to ensure more robust, meaningful, and complete USGS metadata records, thereby increasing the ability to understand, use, and integrate data.  Quality assurance checks of the data must be documented in the metadata for released data products.  A persistent identifier, specifically a DOI for scientific data obtained from the USGS registration agent, is to be included in the metadata unless access to the data is restricted.  Refer to additional information about data DOIs for data (

(3)  Metadata need to be shared at particular times in the USGS research process, such as metadata for planned data acquisitions, metadata for fully processed and quality-controlled observations and measurements, and metadata for scientific data that are approved for release. Metadata for approved scientific data must be deposited in and shared through the USGS Science Data Catalog (  Creators of these metadata must ensure that records are developed in a format (for example, xml) accepted by clearinghouses or repositories, such as the USGS Science Data Catalog.  The FGDC and the Data Management Web sites offer guidance on tools that may be used for creating standardized, well-structured metadata ( and

B. Other Information Products (Publications).  Other information products include, but are not limited to, USGS series publications (SM 1100.3) and outside publications (SM 1100.4). Metadata for these products must contain a complete citation.  These mandatory metadata records include, but are not limited to, authorship, title, originating office or center, product type and number, and reference to any associated data, if applicable.  If other optional metadata elements apply to the information product, these elements should be included to ensure that the metadata records for these products are complete and useful.  In most cases, metadata for these products will be established by registration for DOIs by the USGS or another publisher, and use of the USGS Publications Warehouse ensures that appropriate metadata for other information products are available for public access.

5. Responsibilities.  All USGS funded researchers, employees, contractors, and volunteers engaged in data collection, research, and data development (SM 502.2) activities and in activities related to review, approval, and release of information products (SM 502.4) are responsible for complying with this metadata policy. Specific responsibilities include:

A.  Associate Directors and Regional Directors.  Associate Directors (ADs) and Regional Directors (RDs) work collaboratively with the entire USGS Executive Leadership Team (ELT) to address issues or take corrective action with regard to metadata policy.

B.  Office of Science Quality and Integrity, Core Science Systems, and Office of Enterprise Information.  The Office of Science Quality and Integrity (OSQI), Core Science Systems (CSS), and Office of Enterprise Information (OEI) are responsible for jointly developing USGS data management policy and collaborating on the development of related guidance and procedures. The OSQI coordinates with the ADs, RDs, or the entire ELT as needed to address and resolve issues regarding the execution of this policy and related data management review and approval processes.  The OSQI also maintains and communicates this and other FSP-related policy documents.  The CSS maintains comprehensive guidance and procedures related to data management (refer to the USGS Data Management Web site).  The OEI is responsible for ensuring records management requirements that inform metadata records policy are in place.

C. Science Center Directors.  Science Center Directors ensure compliance of the metadata records for the data and other information products that are produced in their centers or offices, and consult with their respective ADs and RDs as well as with CSS and OSQI officials and staff as needed in ensuring compliance.

D. Approving Officials.  Approving Officials, including Science Center Directors (or their designees) and Bureau Approving Officials in the OSQI, ensure that the appropriate metadata review has occurred and that documentation about the metadata review is included in the product package submitted to them for Bureau approval (SM 205.18).

E. Authors’ Supervisors.  Authors’ supervisors have the first responsibility in the management chain with regard to ensuring a metadata review occurs.  They consult with their respective Science Center Directors as needed to ensure the quality and adequate maintenance of metadata records for the data and other information products that are produced by authors they supervise.

F. Scientists and Authors.  USGS scientists and authors ensure that metadata records as described above are created for each data set and other information product they produce and that these records are consistent, up to date, and verified for accuracy in accordance with the requirements in this policy.  This includes ensuring that the appropriate metadata review for the products they produce are obtained.

G. Records Officer.  The Records Officer in the OEI ensures bureau-wide policies, standards, and procedures including records schedules are in place to provide guidance on creating accurate and complete records and maintaining these records with regard to metadata in accordance with applicable USGS records management requirements.




/s/ Jose R. Aragon                                                                    01/13/2017

__________________________________________            _______________
Jose R. Aragon                                                                        Date
Associate Director for Administration

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