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U.S. Geological Survey Manual

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


OPR: Geospatial Information Office

Instructions: This is an accompanying Survey Manual (SM) chapter to SM 502.1 - Fundamental Science Practices: Foundation Policy. This chapter also replaces Chapters SM 500.8 - Review of USGS Publications and Abstracts of Oral Presentations for Policy-Sensitive Issues, dated May 4, 1992, and SM 500.9 - Approval by the Director for Outside Publication and Oral Presentation, dated September 20, 1993.

1. Purpose and Scope. As a public agency, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has a responsibility to make the results of its scientific investigations widely and promptly available to the public in the form of technically sound and professionally presented information products. Published data and information leave a legacy of data and publications that describe the world and how it is changing. USGS scientists are encouraged to publish their data and findings in ways that contribute to the most effective dissemination of USGS science and that best enhance the Bureau's reputation for reliable science.

This chapter establishes policy and responsibilities for the appropriate review and approval of information products prior to release. This policy applies uniformly and consistently across the bureau and to all information products (see SM 1100.1) that are reviewed and approved for release by the USGS, whether they are published by the USGS or an outside entity.

2. Authority. The mandate to publish data and findings from USGS science activities dates to the Bureau's creation. The Sundry Civil Bill (U.S. Statutes at Large, v. 20, p. 394-395), signed into law on March 3, 1879, specified the following: "The publications of the Geological Survey shall consist of the annual report of operations, geological and economic maps illustrating the resources and the classification of the lands, and reports upon general and economic geology and paleontology." Subsequent legislation has continued the legal mandate for USGS publication activities and has specified additional types of information products.

3. References.

A. SM 502.1 - Fundamental Science Practices: Foundation Policy
B. SM 502.2 - Fundamental Science Practices: Planning and Conducting Data Collection and Research
C. SM 502.3 - Fundamental Science Practices: Fundamental Science Practices: Peer Review
D. SM 205.18 - Authority to Approve Information Products
E. SM Part 1100 - Publishing
F. SM 500.5 - News Release and Media Relations Policy
G. SM 500.19 - Contributions and Grants to USGS from Outside Sources
H. SM 550.1 - USGS Visual Identity System
I. SM 600.6 - Implementation and Administration of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act
J. SM 370.735.4 - Nonofficial Expression
K. SM 370.735.5 - Outside Work and Interests
L. 470 DM 1 - Public Expression
M. 432-1.S1 - USGS General Records Disposition Schedule (Chapter 1300 - Publishing Records)
N. USGS, Guidelines for Ensuring the Quality of Information Disseminated to the Public

4. Policy. All information products (see SM 1100.1) must be reviewed and approved for official release and dissemination, whether they are published by the USGS or an outside entity, if the work has been funded, whole or in part, by the USGS or if USGS affiliation is identified with the authorship. Processes for review and approval may differ for different kinds of information products (print, digital, or audiovisual) but must be consistently applied throughout the USGS.

If during preparation, review, or approval, an information product is determined to be of a particularly sensitive nature, the appropriate Bureau and Departmental officials should be consulted. Issues or concerns of a sensitive nature include those that have current or future policy implications (such as land and resource management decisions) or that involve matters of national interest, security, or potential commercial gain. Additionally, coordination and review should include the appropriate Office of Communications representative in instances of policy-sensitive products or those that may be of such a level of visibility that a communication strategy is warranted to handle their release.

Information products should not recommend or appear to advocate or prescribe a particular public policy or course of action. Information products carry no disclaimer that could suggest that the product does not meet USGS standards of scientific excellence, integrity, and objectivity.

5. Requirements. Requirements for review, approval, and release of information products are as follows:

A. Reviews. All information products must receive the reviews described below prior to Bureau Approval:

(1) Peer review, which ensures the scientific quality of USGS information, as detailed in SM 502.3.

(2) Editorial review, which ensures appropriate Bureau standards and quality assurance for accuracy and clarity of expression are met, specifically:

(a) For information products published by the USGS, editing at the appropriate level is required.

(b) For information products published outside the USGS, editing is recommended but optional.

(3) Policy review, which ensures that all policies relevant to USGS Fundamental Science Practices are met and identifies policy-sensitive issues including those that may have implications related to current policy or that may involve matters of national interest, security, or potential commercial gain, as outlined in the requirements for Bureau Approval (see 5.B.(2) below).

In addition, courtesy reviews, as appropriate, may be conducted by outside organizations that are in partnership with the USGS, have coauthored an information product, and/or who have a stake in the impact of its release. In being afforded this courtesy prior to publication and release, such parties are bound by the Bureau's non disclosure policy (see SM 502.3, Guidelines).

B. Approvals. All information products must receive general approvals, which include those of line supervisors and generally follow the organizational alignment of the senior USGS author, and, subsequently, Bureau Approval, which includes the Policy Review, described in 5.A.(3).

Bureau Approval (previously referred to as "Director's Approval") validates the scientific excellence of the information product. Bureau Approval ensures that all appropriate reviews (see A. Reviews) have been conducted and that the product is consistent with all pertinent USGS and Departmental policies. Delegations of authority to officials who grant Bureau Approval are detailed in SM 205.18.

Bureau Approval uses the following criteria:

(1) Scientific Excellence, Integrity, and Objectivity. Issues with regard to scientific excellence, integrity, and objectivity are dealt with in accordance with established DOI and USGS codes of scientific conduct.

(2) Conflict of Interest. Issues with regard to any conflict of interest, in which an individual's personal interest interferes with or could be construed to interfere with the objectivity of the person's action or judgments when conducting peer review or in authoring an information product, are dealt with in accordance with established DOI and USGS codes of scientific conduct. Personal interest may include the interests of a spouse or minor children. Conflict of interest explicitly includes any financial or other interest that conflicts with the service or actions of an individual because it could impair the individual's objectivity or could create an unfair competitive advantage for a person or organization.

(3) Impartiality and Nonadvocacy. Information products present facts and interpretations impartially and do not recommend or appear to advocate or prescribe a particular public policy or course of action. However, an evaluation of courses of action may be included in the information product. Interpretations are presented as honestly and straightforwardly as possible, are without apparent bias, and contain no derogatory remarks or adverse criticism. The conclusions are based on the best available data interpreted with sound scientific reasoning that avoids speculation.

(4) Methodology and Documentation. Methods used to collect data and produce results must be defensible and adequately documented (see SM 502.2).

(5) Public Benefit and Access. Information products have broad applicability to the user community rather than favoring a restricted sector. Products are well written and 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 a special private entity. Commercial product endorsements are not permitted. Issues of intellectual property law, copyright (see SM 1100.6), and restriction to open access of publicly funded science must be addressed and every effort made to ensure maximum visibility by publishing in the most appropriate medium. The need to maintain open access to USGS information should be balanced with national security concerns. Every effort is made to ensure that data are preserved for as long as they are viable to all applicable uses. The decision to restrict access and distribution to any science data, information, software, or publications will be made by the appropriate Associate Director in consultation with other senior members of the Director's staff. Associate Directors and Regional Directors ensure that those who have delegated Bureau Approval authority are aware of policy-sensitive issues.

(6) Natural Hazards and/or Public or Wildlife Health. Information products that identify forecasts or predictions of natural hazards (earthquakes, volcanic activity, landslides) or that have immediate or time-sensitive relevance to public or wildlife health warnings or alerts are scientifically sound and have been technically reviewed by qualified scientific peers; the level of review reflects the scope and impact of the product. To the extent possible, the product has the concurrence of State or local officials who are charged with response or public announcements. Appropriate officials from the Bureau, other Federal agencies, and State agencies are alerted in a timely manner about the information product and its implications or impact with regard to public health and safety.

(7) Accessibility and Corporate Identity. Federal laws and guidelines regarding the accessibility of USGS information must be met (see SM 600.6). Information products conform to USGS Visual Identity System requirements (see SM 550.1).

C. Production, Release, and Dissemination of Information Products. USGS data and findings should be published in ways that contribute to the most effective dissemination of USGS science and that best enhance the reputation of the Bureau. The opportunities for publishing in USGS and outside outlets are broad, including USGS publication series, USGS Web pages, publication series of cooperating agencies, audiovisual products, scientific journal articles and books, and articles in semitechnical or popular periodicals. The act of release includes the production and dissemination of information products in accordance with USGS publishing requirements (see SM Part 1100 - Publishing) as a means of enhancing the awareness and visibility of USGS science.

(1) A Bureau approach to the practices of review, approval, and release of information products is critical to ensuring that USGS science information is made available in a consistent and uniform manner. Information products officially released by the USGS must conform to appropriate review and approval requirements and must use established USGS publishing capabilities (see 6. Responsibilities, sections G. and H.) for production and release.

(2) Presenting USGS data and findings in non-USGS or outside outlets (such as scientific societies and commercial publishing houses) can provide USGS authors with an effective vehicle to convey USGS science to a broad audience of scientists, to a limited audience of specialists, or to the general public and can be effective in broadening the stature and impact of USGS science and generating support and partnerships for our programs and scientists. Refer to SM 1100.4 for additional requirements on the use of outside publications, including abstracts.

(3) Managers and scientists should inform Headquarters or Regional representatives in the Office of Communications of anticipated Bureau Approval and release of findings or data that may be especially newsworthy, have an impact on Government policy, or contradict previous public understanding to ensure that proper officials are notified and that communication strategies are developed. News releases, opinion pieces, and letters to the editor are governed by requirements detailed in SM 500.5.

6. Responsibilities. Compliance with this policy is incumbent on all employees within the Bureau. Specific responsibilities are as follows:

A. Associate Directors. Associate Directors jointly set policy for review, approval, and release of information products. In consultation with Regional Directors, they provide oversight for these policies and practices and advise when corrective action is needed. Associate Directors (or the Director) establish cross-servicing agreements with Regional Directors that follow a consistent, agreed-upon approach as to how information products developed in their offices are to be approved.

B. Regional Directors. Regional Directors execute policy and practices for review, approval, and release of information products, including appointing Approving Officials. They work with other Regional Directors and Associate Directors to develop cross-servicing agreements for approval as appropriate and using a consistent approach. They take corrective action when notified by Associate Directors of issues with regard to review and approval practices. Approving officials are in the line of authority of Regional Directors. Regional Directors delegate Bureau Approval authority for products that do not contain new interpretive information to a Science Center (Cost Center) Manager or equivalent (see SM 205.18).

C. Science Center Managers. Science Center (Cost Center) Managers or their equivalent ensure that standards for scientific quality are met; that is, methodology is documented and that accepted metadata standards are used. They ensure that only properly peer reviewed products (see SM 502.3) are forwarded for Bureau Approval (for products that contain new interpretive information) and should alert these officials about potential high-visibility products or policy-sensitive issues. They have delegated authority for Bureau Approval of information products that do not contain new interpretive information ((see SM 205.18). They ensure that information products conform to USGS publishing requirements (see SM Part 1100 - Publishing) and that official records are archived at their center.

D. Approving Officials. Approving Officials grant Bureau Approval and are responsible for conducting consistent and uniform practices across the Bureau. They ensure that appropriate interdisciplinary or interregional review has been sought and applied; authors have considered and adequately responded to peer review comments; and the product is clear in its presentation, with the intended audience in mind. They ensure that strict objectivity regarding the relationship of science to public policy is upheld, thus preserving the reputation of the USGS as a source of high-quality and policy-relevant but policy-neutral science (see section 4.A. (3) Policy Review in this chapter). They alert appropriate offices (including the Office of Communications) or officials with regard to policy-sensitive or high-visibility information products that are likely to be of interest or potentially controversial to the Bureau, the Department of the Interior, other Federal agencies; State, local and/or Tribal governmental organizations; the scientific community; the public; or a specific industry or interest. They communicate effectively with one another and Associate and Regional Directors to share knowledge and expertise relative to review, approval, and release practices. They share the Bureau Approval responsibility, one acting on behalf of another, as needed.

E. Authors. The senior USGS author (or the first USGS author, in instances of collaborative outside publications) is responsible for ensuring that the appropriate review and approval for USGS information products occurs. Authors inform their supervisors and the approving officials if changes in drafts of products require or warrant further review. Authors should consult with their supervisor or their local publishing support staff for information on the production and release of any USGS information.

F. Office of Communications and Outreach. Representatives of the Office of Communications at Headquarters and in the Regions are responsible for developing communication strategies, plans, and vehicles to ensure appropriate notification of sensitive or controversial products, as well as broad dissemination and exposure of USGS science. They are alerted by Approving Officials or others cognizant of pending information products that are likely to be notable, policy sensitive, or of high visibility and impact to the scientific community, the public, or a specific industry or interest.

G. Publishing Managers. Publishing Managers are responsible for the performance and management of the Bureau's publishing program and the network of publishing support staff to ensure efficiency in information product production and release. Publishing Managers collaborate and communicate regularly with each other and maintain close coordination with their respective lines of authority.

H. Publishing Support Staff. Publishing Support Staff interact regularly and coordinate with Publishing Managers. They provide support of publishing activities from consultation regarding information product media and venue to editorial review, production, and release of the finished product. They work closely with authors and ensure publishing efficiencies and consistent application of policies and procedures within the USGS. They are responsible for maintaining documentation for records management purposes, in accordance with the USGS General Records Disposition Schedule requirements (see Chapter 1300 - Publishing Records). Publishing support staffs provide information to Publishing Managers for use as appropriate in responding to USGS and Departmental reporting requirements.

I. Geospatial Information Office. The Geospatial Information Office maintains the policy documents and procedures that pertain to USGS Fundamental Science Practices.

J. Documentation and Records. Review and approval records for published USGS information products and for information products and articles published by outside sources include information such as author, title, purpose, publishing media, and signatures for peer review, editorial review, delegated Bureau Approval, and other appropriate USGS and outside source review and approval concurrences. Included as well is the consent or permission of the copyright owner for using copyrighted materials in USGS information products and articles (see SM 1100.6). These records are part of the official record and are archived in accordance with USGS Records Disposition Schedule requirements (see 432-1.S1 , Chapter 1300) at the originating office. 

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U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA, USA
Contact: APS, Office of Policy and Analysis
Issuing Office: Geospatial Information Office
Last modification: 20-Sep-2006@08:24 (kk)
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