The USGS Science Data Catalog:

  • Meets White House Open Data reporting requirements for USGS
  • Provides a search and discovery tool that allows for metadata retrieval, visualization, download, and linking back to original data providers
  • Offers a single source for USGS to serve its metadata to,, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), etc.
  • Helps ensure that USGS metadata meet minimum requirements
  • Supports data managers in applying the Publish/Share element of the USGS Science Data Lifecycle Model
  • Serves as a member node to the NSF Sponsored DataONE Project

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the Science Data Catalog

This Order, built upon an earlier interagency memorandum released by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), was accompanied by OMB Policy and the Project Open Data site, to guide implementation.

See the section, "How to Contribute to the Science Data Catalog" on the Help Page or contact for assistance.

Metadata must be in Extensible Markup Language (XML) format and follow the Federal Geographic Data Committee's (FGDC) endorsed Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata (CSDGM). In the future, the Science Data Catalog will accept metadata adhering to formats prescribed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) suite (e.g., 19115-1, 19115-2, 19119, 19111, etc.) Visit the USGS Data Management Web site for more information about metadata creation.

The USGS Data Management Website provides non-prescriptive data management guidance, best practices, tools, and resources in one convenient location. Learn to create metadata resources to contribute to the USGS Science Data Catalog.

The SDC harvests metadata records from WAFs, SiteMaps, and ScienceBase weekly. It will take about a day for the SDC to re-index all records and so you will generally see updates the following day.

Updates or changes to metadata must be performed on the source XML metadata record that is harvested by the SDC. Update your metadata records where they are managed by the program or science center (WAF, SiteMap or ScienceBase). The SDC conducts a fresh harvest every time and therefore new metadata records will appear and deleted records will disappear.


myReports allows users to view the status of their metadata harvests. myReports provide useful information about the harvesting success of submitted records, showing invalid web links and other issues to help data providers improve data quality.

Getting Started

The total records harvested into the Science Data Catalog is displayed for each data contributor at the bottom left of each data contributor view. To view each individual record that have been harvested, click the numerical value next to "Total Records Harvested" or select the link to view Science Data Catalog Results.

The harvested results are displayed on the search page where users are able to view more information and other related resources about the records.

The total records with failed links is displayed for each data contributor at the bottom right of each data contributor view. To view each individual records with a message as to what failed please click the numerical value next to "Total Records with Failed Links" or the Harvest History link.

The Harvest History tab displays a harvest summary for a specific time stamp. If you want to view you failed links please click on the Failed Records tab.

For an example using the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center Data contributor, the Failed Records tab displays a list of failed records along with the reasons they failed the validation process. Bad Links: If displays an associated link in the field, this means the labeled hyperlink is incorrect or not currently active. If the field only displays no onlink tag, this means there is no online_link attribute found in the metadata record.

If you wish to download the failed records as a comma separated value file you can click the download icon to prompt the file transfer. This file will contain the date processed, source file location and badlink field columns with the individual records as rows.

How to Search for USGS Data

The USGS Science Data Catalog provides three options to search for data. Users can search using keywords or by location and browse by science topic, data provider, or USGS Mission Area. Users can also save URL search strings to reproduce their query terms.

The Science Data Catalog search tab begins with a display of all datasets that are described in the Catalog.

Ordering, Sorting & Display of Results

Change the number of results per page and sort search results by specific type.

Sorting results by relevance | Science Data Catalog
Types of Data Available

All records contain links via the colored button(s) beneath the description of the dataset. Sometimes the link will connect to a downloadable dataset, collection of datasets, and/or connect to data via APIs and map services.

Search result listing | Science Data Catalog
Related Terms

The Catalog only searches for the exact search terms entered. For example, the term "non-native plants" will not bring up records that have similar search terms such as "non-indigenous plant" or "exotic plant." We suggest running searches that include known synonyms to ensure more relevant results.

Use the search box to type a specific term on which to search (e.g. bathymetry). The total number of results in the Catalog will have the term 'bathymetry' found in metadata fields such as title, abstract, keywords, etc.

Search query for 'bathymetry' | Science Data Catalog

From your set of results, you can:

  • Browse through the listing for data.
  • Use a Filter in the left column to narrow the search.
  • Add an additional search term to 'bathymetry' in the text search box.
  • Use the map to search for 'bathymetry' in a specific location.
  • Delete the 'bathymetry' search term and start a brand new search.
Adding an Additional Query to Text Searches

Add an additional search term (e.g. Monterey Bay) and the results will narrow to include results with terms, 'bathymetry' AND 'Monterey Bay'.

Displayed result of the compound search query, bathymetry AND Monterey Bay | Science Data Catalog

The final results might be narrowed down as a result of including both terms in the search. If you are looking for a very specific concept, it use “quotation marks” around the phrase to search for the exact wording.

Bounded search results for rate of shoreline change | Science Data Catalog

To start a new search, delete any previous search terms by clicking on the X to remove them. Remove all terms to start a brand new search.

Search results displayed | Science Data Catalog

There are two ways to conduct a geospatial search on datasets:

  • Geospatial keywords that describe the area of study (e.g. Alaska, Bakken Formation, Acadia National Park, Gulf of Mexico).
  • Bounding box coordinates that give the limits of coverage of a dataset.
Geospatial Keywords

Geospatial keyword searches work best when searching for data from a very specific location. Research studies that are localized are usually described by metadata that contain those location terms in the Title, Abstract, and Keyword fields of the metadata. Search for geospatial keywords with the text search query.

Bounding coordinates ("limit search by location")

Search against the bounding coordinates when looking for datasets for a more general geographic area, and not a very specific named place.

Draw a bounding box on the map to specify area of interest, or to use dropdown menus to select pre-defined areas for U.S. states, countries, and major water bodies.

Breakdown of tool interface for the geospatial search | Science Data Catalog
Limit Search By Location Examples:
Example 1 Example 2

Contact the USGS personnel associated with the data release. To locate contact information, go to the dataset listing in the Catalog, click on the View Metadata button, and scroll to the bottom of the record to locate the Metadata Contact.

How to Contribute to the Science Data Catalog

The decision to contribute USGS metadata records to the Science Data Catalog begins at the science center or program level.

The metadata record(s):

  • Must be in Extensible Markup Language (XML) file format to be machine readable (i.e. not a Word document or pdf).
  • For CSDGM and CSDGM Biological Data Profile records: the record must be compliant with the requirements of the standard. It is strongly recommended that a CSDGM XML record be validated in Metadata Parser ('mp') to ensure that it is both compliant and well-formed.
  • For ISO 19115 records: the record must be compliant with the requirements of the standard.
  • For all data releases after October 1, 2016, the corresponding metadata must have a documented review and approval noted in the IPDS record for the data release.

The USGS Data Management Website provides non-prescriptive data management guidance, best practices, tools, and resources in one convenient location. Learn to create metadata resources to contribute to the USGS Science Data Catalog. To learn more about metadata standards and metadata creation, see the About page.

There are 3 ways to deposit your metadata record for your data release in the Science Data Catalog. Please choose only one method, to avoid duplicate record submissions.

  1. ScienceBase Data Release

    If you are releasing your data through the formal ScienceBase Data Release process, your metadata will be sent automatically to the Science Data Catalog on the Saturday following the release in ScienceBase. Please refer to the ScienceBase Data Release page for instructions.

  2. Local metadata aggregation and submission by select centers/programs

    If you are publishing your data through one of the following centers/programs, your metadata is consolidated locally with other metadata from your location and provided to the Science Data Catalog through a single weekly harvest process. Please contact the coordinator listed next to your program/science center to submit your XML metadata record through this local aggregation process. The Science Data Catalog harvests from these locally managed Web Accessible Folders (WAFs) every Saturday.

    Alaska Science Center (Dennis Walworth |
    Coastal & Marine Geology Program (Peter Schweitzer |
    Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center (Ryan Longhenry |
    Energy Program (Greg Gunther |
    Mineral Resources Program (Peter Schweitzer |
    National Geospatial Program (Rick Brown |
    South Florida Information Access (SOFIA) (Heather Henkel |
    Water NSDI Node (Mike Ierardi |

    Note: If you have released your data through a formal ScienceBase Data Release, and you are also affiliated with one of the above science centers, you can inform the ScienceBase Data Release Team that you will be providing your final metadata to your local metadata aggregation coordinator; the Team will 'untag' your record so that a duplicate copy is not sent to the Science Data Catalog from ScienceBase.

  3. Individual XML metadata record upload to the Science Data Catalog

    If options 1 or 2 do not apply to you - your data are not being released through the formal ScienceBase Data Release process, and you are not affiliated with one of the centers/programs identified in (2) - you can submit your XML metadata record directly to the Science Data Catalog using the individual metadata record submission form (USGS Active Directory login required). Records uploaded through this process are indexed by the Science Data Catalog on the Saturday following successful upload. We encourage you to coordinate this activity with your program/center data manager to ensure that your record is not accidentally submitted by more than one person.

    Note: If you need to submit a revised version of a metadata record you have already submitted to the Science Data Catalog, please contact the Catalog team at, to ensure that the previous version of your record is deleted from the Catalog before you upload the revised version.

text: Your source for open data within USGS

The USGS Science Data Catalog provides
seamless access to USGS research and
monitoring data from across the nation.
Users have the ability to search, browse,
or use a map-based interface to
discover data.

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