National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program

Best Practices for Physical Samples and Data Preservation

NGGDPP Implementation PlanIn August of 2005, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-58) was passed. Section 351 of this Act directed the Secretary of the Interior to carry out a National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program (NGGDPP) with the stated goals of archiving pertinent geoscience data and collections, providing a national catalog of those materials, and providing technical and financial assistance related to those activities. 

The implementation plan for the USGS NGGDPP released in 2006 directed the Program to:

“...establish minimum standards and best practices for the preservation and archiving of the various geologic data and collections, including consistent inventory standards where appropriate.  Establish guidelines for the proper preservation of physical samples, as well as original data and derived information stored on various paper and digital media.  Coordinate efforts with other organizations that are dedicated to the exchange of information in the geosciences.”

The NGGDPP created the Best Practices for Physical Samples and Data Preservation project to address this task, and to aid in methods development and coordination across the USGS and among the Survey’s partners and collaborators.


The NGGDPP Best Practices in Physical Samples and Data Preservation project is designed to provide State Geological Surveys, the USGS, and other research institutions that manage geological and geophysical data collections background information to allow them to make prudent, well-informed archival and business decisions based on best practices in their field.  

To this end the Financial and Technical Assistance Committee of the NGGDPP met in February 2008 to determine categories of information best investigated for recommendation and discussion of “best practices” for sample and data management, and to identify organizations known to have best practices in the various categories.  The committee was composed of representatives of state geological surveys, the USGS, and the Minerals Management Service (MMS).   

To summarize the proceedings, targeted categories included the curation of physical samples, paper records, and digital records; updating of digital records to current and widely available formats; and metadata, cataloging and inventory.  

Goals of this project

The goal of this project is 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.

How is this resource organized?

The topics and considerations provided through this website are divided into eight sections which address the focus issues selected by the NGGDPP Financial and Technical Assistance Committee in 2008.  These nine sections highlight issues relating to the minimum standards of care for data and samples, and address solutions developed and used by various institutions to manage, preserve, and curate them:

  1. Physical sample preservation and curation
  2. Preservation of paper records 
  3. Preservation and management of digital records
  4. Updating digital data to newer formats 
  5. Digital Scanning
  6. Digital cataloging, metadata, standards, and data delivery
  7. Safety, risk management, and continuing operations for samples and data 
  8. Communications, publicity, client relations, and educational outreach
  9. Facility design, infrastructure, storage, location, and access

These nine categories are available on the navigation bar at the right-hand side of this page to facilitate access to these sections.

How can you contribute?

The USGS NGGDPP is always looking to add and improve the suggested practices and techniques we are gathering and presenting to the data management and preservation community.  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.


While the U.S. Geological Survey has created and maintains this website, it is important to note that any use of trade names or references to products is strictly for descriptive purposes only and does not imply any endorsement by the United States Government.

USGS Core Research Center