National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program

Keep the Collections Conversation Going

Participants at the joint AASG-USGS Data Preservation Workshop in Bloomington, IndianaOne of the primary drivers of the USGS National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program is to promote community discussion and interaction across institutional and disciplinary borders with the goal of promoting sound collections management practices and collaborative efforts in sharing these collections and associated metadata.

The links and information provided below are meant to provide USGS collections managers, researchers, and leadership with resources and tools to help educate and inform their collections management strategies.  If there’s any ideas and information you would like to share, please contact the USGS National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program at and we will work with you to add to this listing.

Photo on right: Participants at the joint AASG-USGS Data Preservation Workshop in
Bloomington, Indiana learn how the Indiana Geological Survey preserves mining maps.

Grants and funding opportunities

The NGGDPP Grant Program is administered by the USGS and includes State geological surveys and bureaus within the Department of Interior (DOI) that maintain geological and geophysical data and samples. Other organizations are encouraged to participate in the Grant Program by partnering with eligible Federal and State agencies. The federal share of any state originated activity may not exceed 50% of the total cost. The State match may include funding from the state geological survey, other state agency, and private industry. Annually, the availability of grants is generally announced in January and proposals are due mid-March. Funding is awarded for successful proposals in mid- to late-summer. Successful candidates have one year to complete the work stated in the proposals.  For more information on the program, proposal process, and guidance on submitting a successful application, please visit the NGGDPP Grant Program website.


Read about and share Best Practices

What are Best Practices?  The NGGDPP uses this term as a means to seek improved and applied methods, which will lead to the development of newer strategies for data and sample collections management.  As new methods of preservation and curation are developed, these practices will change to reflect new technologies and capabilities. 

The NGGDPP Best Practices in Physical Samples and Data Preservation project is designed to be a community resource for Federal agencies, State Geological Surveys, academic, and research institutions to share experiences and methods used to preserve physical samples, digital data and analog materials. This project endeavors to define common practices and standards in geoscience data and samples preservation, as well as highlight techniques and practices identified by the data preservation community as the best in their fields.

Check out the NGGDPP Best Practices website to read about strategies and ideas related to data and sample preservation.   If you have any success stories, suggestions, or contributions you would like to share, please send an email to the USGS National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program at  We will work with you to highlight your best practices and share them online.


Access collections

Since its formation in 1879, the USGS has been collecting samples and specimens during the course of field work and investigations into the geology, geomorphology, natural resources, habitats, environment, and natural hazards within the United States and around the world.  These specimens represent a rich scientific legacy, and, when preserved and properly curated, represent valuable resources that have enduring use for current and future research.

USGS Science Centers across the United States are managing scientific collections, preserving them, and making these samples available for future research.  Here are a few of the Science Centers and repositories across the Survey managing scientific collections.  If you have a USGS collection or repository that you would like to add to this list, please send an email to the USGS National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program at


USGS data and collections management

The USGS Geologic Collections Management System

The USGS is widely recognized in the earth science community as possessing extensive collections of earth materials collected by research personnel over the course of its history. In 2008, a working group convened to examine ways in which these collections could be coordinated, cataloged, and made available to researchers both inside and outside the USGS. The result of this collaborative effort was the development and publication of the USGS Geologic Collections Management System (GCMS). The GCMS provides a unified collections management strategy, with proposed guidelines, procedures, and resources to preserve the scientific legacy of the USGS through its sample collections, as well as making these sample collections available for further study and use.

Visit the GCMS webpage to learn more, and download a copy of the report.


Register your collections

The USGS National Digital Catalog

The National Digital Catalog serves as a metadata repository for geoscientific physical samples inventoried and archived by State Geological Surveys. Annually, since 2007, through a competitive proposal process, the NGGDPP has awarded federal funds to State Geological Surveys to inventory and catalog physical samples, producing metadata records adhering to NGGDPP metadata profile. Over 2.7 million metadata records have been uploaded to and made publicly available in the National Digital Catalog.

The National Digital Catalog resides on the ScienceBase data management infrastructure, being developed by the USGS for use by USGS and partner scientific efforts. ScienceBase offers many advanced features, including automated generation of web services, security settings, public access and use, flexible metadata formats (from standards-compliant formats to various schemas, including NGGDPP), data/metadata ingestion methods, spatial geometry assignment and services, directory services promoting discovery of scientists and organizations, vocabulary services, and more.

The Registry of U.S. Federal Scientific Collections (USFSC)

According to the USFSC website, "The registry of US Federal Scientific Collections (USFSC) is a community-curated, comprehensive clearinghouse of information about object-based scientific collections that are owned and/or managed by US Federal government departments and agencies. The registry of USFSC serves a registry function for InstitutionCodes and CollectionCodes (elements of the Darwin Core Data Standard in biology) that enable publications and databases to point unambiguously to repositories and their contents."

Federal collections should be registered in USFSC. Since USFSC is connected to the Global Registry of Scientific Collections (GRSciColl, see below), records of federal collections registered in the USFSC will automatically be included in GRSciColl and will be available through that clearinghouse as well.


Standards and schemas to describe collections and their data

Global Registry of Scientific Collections (GRSciColl)

The Global Registry of Scientific Collections (GRSciColl) is a comprehensive clearinghouse of information about object-based scientific collections. It provides general terminology to describe scientific collections that span all scientific disciplines, including earth and space sciences, anthropology, archaeology, biology, biomedicine, and applied fields, such as agriculture, veterinary medicine, and technology.  GRSciColl is a community-curated data source that originated from Scientific Collections International (SciColl), an international association of affiliated organizations that promotes the availability, management, and usefulness of object-based scientific collections across science, technology, and medical disciplines.  SciColl works actively on  demonstrating the impact scientific collections have on research projects that have a global impact, highlighting examples of the benefits and value of scientific collections, creating a collections and management resource locator (GRSciColl) for researchers and policy makers, and developing and providing standards and guides for managing scientific collections. 

The Registry of U.S. Federal Scientific Collections (USFSC), a clearinghouse for scientific collections that are owned and/or managed by U.S. Federal government departments and agencies, is based on GRSciColl.

Darwin Core (DwC)

Darwin Core (DwC) is an extension of the Dublin Core vocabulary schema that encompasses biodiversity informatics.  DwC contains a standardized glossary of terms to share biodiversity data, including data from biological collections.  It is primarily based on biological taxa and their occurrences in nature, and it is considered a standard schema for describing data on the contents of biological collections.  Although the schema does include some terms that relate to collections, the main focus of the standard is on describing data about biological specimens rather than describing the collections themselves.  The standard also includes documentation relating to the management of the terms found in DwC, as well as how to extend those terms for new purposes. DwC is maintained by Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG), a scientific and educational association that is affiliated with the International Union of Biological Sciences and that focuses on the development of standards for the exchange of biological/biodiversity data.

The latest version of DwC can be found online, and references and guides can be found on the Darwin Core homepage.


Helpful links and resources

The United States Office of Science and Technology Policy

The United States Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) advises the President of the United States on science and technology developments, issues, and effects on national and international policies and affairs.  OSTP is also authorized to work with national, state, and local governmental organizations, as well as academic and private science institutions to develop and implement sound scientific practices that benefit society.

During his tenure as the President’s Science Advisor, Dr. John Holdren has released several memoranda outlining the Obama Administration’s guidelines and mandates for responsible management and open access to scientific collections collected as a part of federally funded research:

The Internet of Samples in the Earth Sciences (iSamples)

The Internet of Samples in the Earth Sciences (iSamples) is an international Research Coordination Network (RCN) dedicated to advancing the connections between physical sample collections to digital data using innovative methods in developing cyberinfrastructure.  Members of this network come from federal, state, academic, and private science institutions, and the RCN hosts online webinars regularly, as well as face-to-face meetings and a presence at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) annual meetings.

iSamples has hosted a webinar featuring the USGS Geologic Collections Management System, and uploaded the presentation to YouTube.  You can view the presentation, recoded on October 28, 2015 here.

Other Collections Management Plans

Museum of Southwestern Biology Division of Mammals Collections Management Procedures Manual
Museum of Southwestern Biology February, 2016

Digital Records Preservation: Where to Start Guide
International Organization for StandardizationOctober, 2010

National Museum of Natural History Collections Management Policy
Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural HistorySeptember, 2006

Concern at the Core: Managing Smithsonian Collections
Smithsonian Institution, April, 2005

Guidelines for the Curation of Geological Materials
Geological Society, December, 1984


                                                                Please check back as this page is updated and more information is available!