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Information Policies and Instructions

The USGS serves the Nation as an independent fact-finding agency that collects, monitors, analyzes, and provides scientific understanding about natural resource and natural hazard conditions, issues, and problems. The value of the USGS to the Nation rests on its ability to carry out studies on a national scale and to sustain long-term monitoring and assessment of natural resources and hazards. Because it has no regulatory or management mandate, the USGS provides impartial science that serves the needs of our changing world. It is the policy of the USGS to conduct its activities and to make the results of its scientific investigations available in a manner that will best serve the whole public, rather than the interest or benefit of any special group, corporation, or individual. The reputation of USGS science for excellence and objectivity is our most important asset. It brings authority to our data and findings and creates long-term credibility.


Information Quality

In Section 515(a) of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001, Congress directed the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to issue governmentwide guidelines that “provide policy and procedural guidance to Federal agencies for ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information (including statistical information) disseminated by Federal agencies.”

The USGS guidelines and complaint process will apply to all information disseminated on or after October 1, 2002. Information disseminated prior to October 1, 2002, but not archived and still being used in a decisionmaking process is not exempt from these guidelines. Information records disseminated from studies completed and archived before October 1, 2002, are exempt from the guidelines.

Contact - If you have questions on USGS data and information accuracy, contact:

USGS Information Quality Officer
Mail Stop 807
National Center
Reston, VA 20192


Public Release of Information

The USGS, as the science arm of the Department of the Interior and the earth and natural science agency for the Nation, has an ongoing obligation to keep the broadest spectrum of the public advised and engaged in its scientific research, investigations, and ongoing information releases. The USGS Home Page, its links to science information of the various programs and activities of the USGS, the resources of the USGS Newsroom, and the USGS search function all provide prompt and easy public access to the results of USGS scientific research and investigations.

Section 207 (f) (2) of the E-Government Act of 2002 requires Government agencies to develop an inventory of information to be published on their Web site. The purpose of Section 207 (f) (2) is to improve the methods by which Government information, including information on the Internet, is organized, preserved, and made accessible to the public. More information on this requirement can be found on the National Archives and Records Administration Web site at

Policy on Release of Information - As an integral part of its mission, the USGS has a continuing responsibility to keep the public informed of its various programs, activities, and research. It is the policy of the USGS to conduct its activities and to make the results of its scientific investigations available in a manner that will best serve the whole public, rather than the interest or benefit of any special group, corporation, or individual. The Internet affords the USGS a mechanism to achieve that broad distribution, impartially and simultaneously, in accordance with its mission and information dissemination policy.

Schedule and Priorities for Release of Information - The diversity of scientific expertise enables the USGS to carry out large-scale, multidisciplinary investigations that build the base of knowledge about the Earth. In turn, decisionmakers at all levels of government—and citizens in all walks of life—have the information tools they need to address pressing societal issues. As such, there is no set schedule on which the USGS releases its information; rather, the readiness of the science for release determines the schedule. Priority of release is consistent with the Department of the Interior Schedule of Content.

News releases are issued and information is posted on the USGS Home Page whenever a significant earthquake or other natural disaster occurs, a major personnel appointment is announced, budget information is available, or a science program has results to announce.

The USGS is a scientific publisher and regularly and routinely presents the results of its scientific research and investigations in printed and/or online format in publication series. Bibliographic citations and information on accessing and obtaining USGS information products are available in the USGS Publications Warehouse.

Contact - If you have questions concerning release of USGS information, contact the Office of Communications.


Copyrights and Credits

USGS-authored or produced data and information are considered to be in the U.S. public domain. While the content of most USGS Web pages is in the U.S. public domain, not all information, illustrations, or photographs on our site are. Some non USGS photographs, images, and/or graphics that appear on USGS Web sites are used by the USGS with permission from the copyright holder. These materials are generally marked as being copyrighted. To use these copyrighted materials, you must obtain permission from the copyright holder under the copyright law.

When using information from USGS information products, publications, or Web sites, we ask that proper credit be given. Credit can be provided by including a citation such as the following:

Credit: U.S. Geological Survey
Department of the Interior/USGS
U.S. Geological Survey/photo by Jane Doe (if the photographer/artist is known)

Additional information on Acknowledging or Crediting USGS as Information Source is available.

Policy - For relevant USGS policy on copyrights and trademarks, refer to the Survey Manual chapter entitled, “Use of Copyrighted Material in USGS Information Products.”

Contact - If you have questions concerning the use of USGS information, contact the Office of Communications.


USGS Visual Identity System

To reinforce visually who we are and what we do, the USGS uses a visual identity system that provides planning and design solutions for USGS information products. A key component of the visual identity system is the USGS identifier. This identifier is trademarked and must be used in accordance with the rules outlined at Visual Identity System. Information on who may use the USGS identifier and how to obtain a copy of it is available at Use of the Trademarked USGS Identifier by Non-USGS Organizations.

Policy - For relevant USGS policy on the Visual Identity System, refer to the Survey Manual chapter entitled, “USGS Visual Identity System.”

Contact - If you have questions on the USGS Visual Identity System, contact the USGS Visual Identity System Help Desk.



Neither the U.S. Government, the Department of the Interior, nor the USGS, nor any of their employees, contractors, or subcontractors, make any warranty, express or implied, nor assume any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, nor represent that its use would not infringe on privately owned rights.

Links to non-USGS sites - Links and pointers to non-USGS sites are provided for information only and do not constitute endorsement by the USGS, U.S. Department of the Interior, or U.S. Government, of the referenced organizations, their suitability, content, products, or services, whether they are governmental, educational, or commercial. Some of the documents on this server may contain live references (or pointers) to information created and maintained by other organizations. Please note that the USGS does not control and cannot guarantee the relevance, timeliness, or accuracy of these outside materials.

Non-endorsement of non-USGS products and services - Hypertext links and other references to non-USGS products and services are provided for information only and do not constitute endorsement or warranty by the USGS, U.S. Department of the Interior, or U.S. Government, as to their suitability, content, usefulness, functioning, completeness, or accuracy.

Public domain software - Links are provided to public-domain software developed by or for the USGS. Although these programs have been used by the USGS, no warranty is made by the USGS as to the accuracy and functioning of the programs and related program material. Distribution of these materials also does not constitute any warranty, and no responsibility is assumed by the USGS in connection with any distribution activity.

Contact - If you have general questions about USGS Web sites, contact the USGS Web.


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