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U.S. Geological Survey Manual

U.S. Geological Survey Instructional Memorandum

No: IM OSQI 2015-04

Issuance Date: February 19, 2015

Expiration Date:  Retain Until Suspended

 Preservation Requirements for Digital Scientific Data

1.  Purpose and Scope.  This Instructional Memorandum (IM) specifies preservation requirements that apply to all U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) digital scientific data and associated information.  The IM is interim policy to allow the time needed for USGS science activities to fully implement the data preservation requirements herein and it will be retained until superseded by a permanent Bureau Survey Manual (SM) policy chapter.  This Instructional Memorandum (IM) provides interim requirements and procedures to ensure the preservation of USGS digital scientific data.  Preservation requirements for non-digital data (paper records containing data or descriptions of data) or physical samples are addressed in the USGS records disposition schedules.

2.  Policy.  Data created by or on behalf of the USGS are the property of the Federal Government (refer to SM 502.5 for information on USGS and non USGS data) and the Federal Records Act 36 CFR 1220.14 ).  It is the policy of the USGS to preserve scientific data and information funded or developed by the Bureau’s information and research programs.  All scientific data as a result of USGS funding must be preserved as follows. 

A.  USGS scientific data, databases and information, are accessible, available, and useable on the appropriate media in accordance with the USGS records disposition schedules ( or as appropriate to meet the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) retention format requirements for permanent records ( and to comply with Federal Government Open Data and Open Access initiatives. 

B.  The USGS will retain an authoritative or original copy of all data for which it is responsible and that are produced for release as a result of its scientific research and related activities.  Distribution copies of USGS data may be disseminated through appropriate third parties such as, journal-related storage and external repository.  When scientific data are produced in cooperation with non-USGS entities, ownership of that data must be clearly stated in a documented agreement between the parties.  In addition, other applicable requirements for scientific work performed and information developed under various agreements or collaborative arrangements with non-USGS entities must also be followed (refer to SM 502.2, section 2.  References).

C.  Digital data and associated information that USGS is responsible for preserving must be stored and released from properly certified and accredited information systems following USGS information technology systems processes and procedures.  These processes ensure important long-term preservation concerns such as those related to fault tolerance, data integrity, and information security are addressed (refer to

3.  Preservation Elements.  Each element listed below represents a component of required digital scientific data preservation.  Detailed guidance and specific implementation details are available on the USGS Data Management Web site:

A.  Storage and Geographic Location.  Storage and geographic location involves storage systems, locations, and the planning for multiple copies of data.  At a minimum, two complete copies of all data, metadata, and documentation must be maintained.  These two copies must be geographically separate; for example, a backup tape/disk can be stored in a location that is separate from a Science Center, which is the primary location of the data/metadata.

B.  Data Viability and Integrity.  Data viability and integrity encompass procedures to maintain the ability to access and use data through time.  This includes activities to prevent, detect, and recover from unexpected, deliberate or intentional, or unintentional changes to data as well as activities that maintain the viability of data through technological or other changes over time.  Examples include verifying file integrity at fixed intervals, maintaining procedures to replace or repair corrupted data, migration of data, transferring at-risk data to newer computer hardware from degrading or obsolete media, and upgrading operating systems and media.

C.  Information Security.  Information security includes procedures to prevent human-caused corruption or deletion of and unauthorized access to the data.  Role-based authorization applies with regard to read, write, move, and delete actions on individual files. 

D.  Metadata.  Metadata ensures proper documentation of Bureau data to enable contextual understanding and long-term usability (refer to IM OSQI 2015-02 - Metadata for Scientific Data, Software, and Other Information Products).  Complete metadata must be preserved and directly associated with the scientific data they describe. 

E.  File Formats.  The file formats include file types, data structures, and naming conventions to aid long-term preservation, access, and use.  The USGS must comply with NARA formats for records deemed to be permanent (refer to   The USGS encourages the use of open file formats, codecs, compression schemes, and encapsulation schemes.  These formats shall meet the Office of Management and Budget principles of ensuring machine readability.  Nonproprietary, open data formats are preferred over proprietary formats requiring specialized software for access and use.

4.  Responsibilities. 

A.  Associate Directors and Regional Directors.  Associate Directors (ADs) and Regional Directors (RDs) provide oversight and support for the data preservation activities in their mission and regional areas.  They collaborate with each other to address issues or take corrective action with regard to data preservation activities.

B.  Office of Science Quality and Integrity and Core Science Systems.  The Office of Science Quality and Integrity (OSQI) and the Core Science Systems (CSS) are responsible for jointly developing data preservation policy.  The OSQI is responsible for maintaining and communicating policy regarding the preservation of USGS digital scientific data assets.  The CSS maintains the USGS Data Management Web site, which provides guidance and procedures related to preservation of scientific data (refer to and the USGS Science Data Catalog, which provides public search and discovery of USGS digital scientific data. 

C.  Science Center Directors, Managers, and Scientists.  Science Center Directors, managers (project and program), and scientists involved in any phase of the USGS science data lifecycle (refer to IM OSQI 2015-01 - Scientific Data Management Foundation), are responsible for complying with the preservation requirements in this policy.  Science Center Directors or their designees as they deem necessary, collaborate with their respective ADs and/or RDs to assign or ensure the assigning of data managers to oversee their centers’ and offices’ data preservation activities.  At the start of the project, the scientist must develop a data migration strategy as part of the data management plan to account for preserving the data and information and the metadata in accordance with this policy and records disposition authorities.

D.  Data Managers.  Designated data managers are responsible for coordinating and enacting preservation activities for USGS data.  Data managers will ensure that the preservation activities for which they are assigned are met.  They also collaborate with the data producers and the USGS Records Officer to ensure the appropriate records management requirements for their data are met. 

E.  Records Officer.  The USGS Records Officer in the Office of Enterprise Information is responsible for the policy development, coordination, and overall management of the USGS Records Management Program and ensuring policies, standards, and procedures are in place that provide guidance on creating accurate and complete records, maintaining these records throughout the science data lifecycle, and legally transferring permanent scientific data in accordance with applicable USGS and NARA records management requirements.



/s/ Alan D. Thornhill                                                                 February 19, 2015

_____________________________________________                  ______________
Alan D. Thornhill                                                                                       Date
Director, Office of Science Quality and Integrity

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