National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program

Creation of the National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program

The Association of American State Geologists (AASG) was founded in 1908 to advocate and further the use geological and other earth sciences to develop economic prosperity, understand and mitigate natural hazards, protect lives and property, and preserve the natural environment.  Due to evolving concepts and understanding of earth processes, and advancing analytical techniques, the AASG recognized the need to preserve geological and geophysical data and samples for re-examination and re-analysis. Valuable geological and geophysical samples, collections, and data (examples: rock and ice cores, fossils, geophysical tapes and paper logs, rock, mineral and fossil samples, aerial photos, field notes, thin sections) are in poor states of preservation, often inaccessible to the public, and threatened with permanent loss. Most repositories managed by State Geological Surveys for physical samples are near storage capacity. Many geoscientific samples and data curated by States are irreplaceable due to high costs associated with sampling (for example, core drilling can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars); inaccessibility due to land use changes, such as development and urbanization; and destructive events such as landslides and floods that have made further sampling impossible.

While sample and data preservation is important, users must know how to find, access, and use the materials. Developing inventories of geoscientific holdings, employing standards to share geoscientific information in structured formats, and enabling discovery of the information was recognized as vital to promote preservation and use of geoscientific samples managed by the States.

The AASG advocated to Congress the need to establish a Program to help manage and ensure preservation of the Nation’s physical geoscientific collections. To address these issues, Congress established the National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program (NGGDPP) through the National Energy Policy Act of 2005 [PL 109-58, Sec. 351], which was signed into law by George W. Bush. The NGGDPP was established to:

- to archive geologic, geophysical, and engineering data, maps, well logs, and samples;

- to provide a national catalog of such archival material; and

- to provide technical and financial assistance related to the archival material.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) was designated to administer the NGGDPP for the Secretary of the Department of Interior. Since 2007, the NGGDPP has distributed approximately $8 million to State Geological Surveys to inventory, preserve, catalog, and improve access to their geoscientific collections. Adding the State matching funds, which are required to carry out preservation activities under the NGGDPP, over $16-million has been spent to preserve geoscientific data and artifacts across the Nation as part of the Program. The National Digital Catalog provides an inventory of State collections and samples. The AASG continues to support the USGS’s role administering the Program and regularly advocates Congress to support the NGGDPP and increase funding.