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Data Release

The ScienceBase team has developed a workflow to help USGS scientists use the ScienceBase platform as a resource for hosting, displaying, and searching official USGS data release products. Before beginning the ScienceBase data release workflow, scientists should review the ScienceBase User Agreement.

For more information about the data release policies, see the USGS Fundamental Science Practices (FSP) website, which contains an FAQ page about data release and a guide to the publishing path options (data release with or without a companion publication). The USGS data management website contains a guide to the steps of data release, with links to tools and resources. 

How to release data through ScienceBase      

 Start a Data Release        

  1. Contents of a data release                                                         
  2. The FSP review process
  3. How to get started
  4. Finalize metadata
  5. Edit the new landing page
  6. Organize and display data
  7. Citation format
  8. Final steps

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Contents of a data release

A data release should contain only data and metadata.

  • A best practice is to release data in an open, machine-readable format
  • Metadata should be in XML format and should conform to an FGDC-endorsed metadata standard, FGDC CSDGM* or ISO**.
    *Federal Geographic Data Committee Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata  
    **International Organization for Standardization

According to USGS Fundamental Science Practices (FSP) guidance, a data release is an information product that is non-interpretive and does not include extended descriptions about the data or project beyond what is required in the full metadata record. Extended text descriptions, figures, maps and content in PDF format are more appropriate for USGS series publications, which are handled by the USGS Science Publishing Network (SPN).

2. The FSP review process

Data and metadata should be reviewed and approved according to the Fundamental Science Practices (FSP) process. The review process is tracked in the Information Product Data System (IPDS).

When you create a new record in IPDS, select "Data Release" in the "Product Type" drop-down menu. New records are assigned an IP number. Each data release product in ScienceBase should correspond to only one IP number. That is, materials that are reviewed and approved together in IPDS should be released together in one data release product. Materials that are reviewed and approved separately should be released as separate products.

Data releases often have associated manuscripts that also go through review. In this situation, the review processes are separate. There should be an IPDS record for the data release and another for the manuscript.

3. How to get started

4. Finalize metadata

The following instructions are for metadata records in the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata (CSDGM) format. The USGS metadata creation tools, the Online Metadata Editor and the Metadata Wizard, create metadata in this format.

Digital Object Identifier

When the ScienceBase team creates a landing page in ScienceBase, they will also create a DOI for you that links to the landing page. This DOI should be included in the metadata record. 

Please add your full DOI URL (i.e., to the online linkage element (<onlink>) in the citation information section of your metadata. We also recommend adding the DOI URL to the network resource element (<networkr>) in the distribution section (some advanced metadata authors use this field for direct data download links). 

Distribution information

Please include the following content in the distribution section of your metadata. Note: if you search for "GS ScienceBase" in the directory look-up tool of the Online Metadata Editor or the Metadata Wizard, you can auto-populate this content into your metadata.

  • Contact Organization and/or Contact Person: “U.S. Geological Survey - ScienceBase” 
  • Contact Address: “Denver Federal Center, Building 810, Mail Stop 302” “Denver” “CO” “80225”
  • Contact Phone: “1-888-275-8747”
  • Contact Email: “"
  • Distribution Liability: please select the USGS disclaimer statement(s) that are relevant to your data release. Disclaimer statements are available at

Metadata validation

You can validate your metadata records using the Metadata Parser. If you are using the Metadata Wizard or the Online Metadata Editor to create your metadata, the Metadata Parser is built in and will validate the metadata before download. The ScienceBase team will check metadata records using this tool as part of their final check of the data release.

5. Edit the new landing page

Select the "Manage" drop-down menu on the upper right side of the page, then select "Edit". This will take you to the edit form, where you can enter descriptive information and upload files.

Screenshot of the Manage dropdown menu, which includes an Edit option

The current file size limit for uploads and downloads in ScienceBase is 10GB. Files larger than 1GB should be uploaded using the Large File Uploader tool available in the “Item Actions” section at the bottom of a ScienceBase page.

You can save time by auto-populating information from your metadata record into ScienceBase. In the edit form, go to the "Files" tab, select "Add files...," and navigate to your metadata and data files. If you upload an XML metadata record in an FGDC-endorsed standard, ScienceBase will recognize the format and bring up a popup window to ask if you would like to pull content from the metadata. Select "Yes" to automatically populate many fields in the edit form. You may still need to manually edit some of the information. Click "Save" to save your changes.

You can also create new "child items" (ScienceBase pages that are nested under the landing page). This can be helpful if you have more than one metadata record. Upload each metadata record and its associated dataset(s) to a separate child item. To add a child item, select "Add Item" in the black menu bar at the top of the page:

Screenshot of the ScienceBase title bar, the Add Item option is circled

6. Organize and display data

Data releases often contain multiple datasets and metadata records. If you only have one metadata record, upload the record and its associated dataset(s) directly to the landing page.

If you have more than one metadata record, create child items and upload one metadata record and its associated dataset(s) to each child item. To create a new child item, select “Add Item” in the black menu bar at the top of the page. A benefit of creating child items is that it allows the descriptive information on a page to be specific to the uploaded dataset.

The Science Data Catalog can only harvest one metadata record from a page in ScienceBase, so if you are using ScienceBase as the harvest point for your Science Data Catalog submissions, there should be only one metadata record per page. Please upload the metadata record as a separate file (unzipped).

For data releases with multiple metadata records, we recommend creating a project-level metadata record to upload to the landing page. This will allow you to contribute a record to the Science Data Catalog that describes the overall data release. If you already have a more specific metadata record, just create a copy and update the key fields to ensure that they are general to the entire data release.

The ScienceBase team has recorded a tutorial video to help scientists determine the best way to structure and document their data releases. There is a sample data release in ScienceBase to illustrate the recommended format for a data release with multiple datasets and metadata records. Additional examples show the structuring possibilities. 

If you would like to display an image on a ScienceBase page, upload the image in .JPG or .PNG format. The image will automatically display on the landing page.

ScienceBase can generate web services for certain geospatial file types (shapefiles, GeoTIFF and ESRI Service Definition (.SD) files). The web services can be used to display the data in the preview map on a ScienceBase page, and to serve the data to outside applications. For more information, see the ScienceBase Geospatial Services page in the online help documentation.

7. Citation format

The data release citation should include each author (last name, first and middle initials), the year, the title, the publication type (U.S. Geological Survey data release), and the Digital Object Identifier link. ScienceBase has the capability to automatically generate citations from the content of uploaded metadata records. Please verify that automatically generated citations have the correct format and author order. The citation field can be edited in the first tab of the edit form.

When a data release has multiple child items, the citation on each child item should be the same as the citation on the top level landing page, unless each child item has its own DOI.


Cartwright, J.M., 2015, Hydrologic and soil data collected in limestone cedar glades at Stones River National Battlefield, Tennessee: U.S. Geological Survey data release,

Coates, P.S., Casazza, M.L., Ricca, M.A., Brussee., B.E., Blomberg, E.J., Gustufson, K.B., Overton, C.T., Davis, D.M., Niell, L.E., Espinosa, S.C., Gardner, S.C., and Delehanty, D.J., 2015, Integrating spatially explicit indices of abundance and habitat quality: an applied example for greater sage-grouse management: U.S. Geological Survey data release,

8. Final steps

When your data and metadata have received approval in IPDS and you are ready to make the data release public, contact your Sciencebase point of contact or Your point of contact will check the data release against a checklist and share any recommendations they have. When the data release has been finalized, the ScienceBase team will make it public and it will no longer be open for modifications.

You can use the recommended citation on the landing page to cite your data. If you do cite the data in a publication, please send the publication's citation to so that it can be added to the landing page. ​


Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I find information about how to create and/or review a metadata record?

How can I give other people permission to view and edit the data release when it’s still in progress?

To give permissions to USGS employees and other users with ScienceBase accounts, select the "Manage" drop-down menu, then "Manage Permissions". Select "Custom Permissions". Enter a user’s name or email address into the "User" text box. Wait for the autocomplete to find the user's ScienceBase account, then select it and click "Add".

ScienceBase accounts are automatically created for users the first time they log in with their Active Directory credentials. If someone hasn't logged in to ScienceBase before, they won’t yet have an account. Users without Active Directory credentials can request a ScienceBase account if they are collaborating with USGS partners.

To share the link to a private data release with someone outside the USGS, e.g., for a journal review, click "Manage Anonymous Access Links" in the "Item Actions" section at the bottom of the page. This will generate a temporary access URL that you can share with your reviewer. The URL will allow them to view the data release without having to sign up for a ScienceBase account. The data release will be locked for editing while the link is active. To unlock, select "Manage Anonymous Access Links" again and remove the link.

What if I need to update my data after they have been released?

Data submissions are expected to be in a final form; however, unexpected changes may be required. Please contact the ScienceBase team at if you need to make changes. Guidance for data release versioning is available on the USGS Fundamental Science Practices (FSP) website.

Will ScienceBase send the XML metadata record(s) from my data release to the USGS Science Data Catalog?

Yes, by default ScienceBase will automatically perform this function for authors. Metadata records attached to a formal USGS data release product in ScienceBase will be sent to the USGS Science Data Catalog (SDC) after the data release is finalized.

Some science centers and programs have alternate methods of submitting metadata records to the SDC and may not wish for their records to be sent from ScienceBase. This option is also supported; ScienceBase keeps a list of these centers, and XML records associated with their data release products will not be sent from ScienceBase. If you would like to add your center to this list, please contact

Why is CSV format recommended instead of Excel?

Comma-separated values (CSV) format is preferable to Microsoft Excel format because CSV is often more machine-readable and can be more easily incorporated into other workflows. While both .csv and .xlsx are considered open formats (that is, you don't need proprietary software to view them), .xlsx supports features that can make it less machine-readable. For example, if there are multiple worksheets in an Excel workbook or if some of the information is conveyed through formatting, it would be more difficult to use or work with the data in other applications (e.g. Python, R).

What is the file size limit for uploading and downloading data?

The current file size limit for uploads and downloads in ScienceBase is 10GB. Files larger than 1GB should be uploaded using the Large File Uploader tool available in the “Item Actions” section at the bottom of a ScienceBase page.

Can I release my legacy data in ScienceBase?

Yes, but ScienceBase has a formal process for publicly releasing data, which enables the ScienceBase team to catalog, track, and update these resources in a uniform way. If you would like to release your legacy data in ScienceBase, you will need to go through FSP review and work with the ScienceBase team.

A). My data release is associated with a publication. How will the two reference each other?
B). I don’t have the publication’s citation yet, but I would like to release the data now. Can I add the citation at some point in the future?

A). The citation will be added to the landing page in the "Related External Resources" section (see example). In associated publications, data release citations are included in the reference section. USGS publications have links to their associated data releases at the top of their landing pages in the USGS Publications Warehouse.

B). Yes, a publication’s citation can be added to a data release at any time, even after it has been made public and the edit permissions have been restricted. If you would like to add a citation to a public data release, please send the citation to (or to someone on the ScienceBase team) and we’ll add it to the landing page. If you’ve updated the metadata to include the publication’s citation, please also send the most recent version of the metadata and we’ll replace the metadata in the data release.

Which repository should I use to release code?

The recommended option depends on the nature of the code.

ScienceBase could be a good option if the code isn’t going to be updated over time. Code that is associated with a data release (e.g., it was used to process the data) could be included as part of that data release in ScienceBase. Code that isn’t associated with a data release could have its own landing page in ScienceBase with a unique citation and DOI. All code uploaded to ScienceBase must have associated documentation.

Versioned software that will be updated over time would be best served using USGS BitBucket or another Version Control System (VCS) enabled repository.



Workflow for the process of data release through ScienceBase


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