Study in Progress

Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Laboratories: Processes, Procedures, and Best Practices to Meet National Needs

Statement of Task

An ad hoc committee will review a representative sample of USGS laboratory facilities, covering energy and minerals, natural hazards, surface and groundwater, ecosystems, and environmental health. The review will focus primarily on production laboratories that serve both USGS users and external customers, and secondarily on laboratories that support research and method development. The review will be carried out in two phases from 2017 to 2020, and will produce an informal working paper and a consensus report. Specific tasks for these two phases are given below.

Phase 1

(1) Provide an overview of USGS laboratory facilities across the nation, including their science and applications objectives, budget, staff and user profiles, and history of sample throughput for the last 5 to 10 years.
(2) Describe the laboratory protocols, analytical procedures and standards, and data management processes for USGS laboratories, relevant laboratories hosted by other federal agencies (e.g., National Institute of Standards and Technology, U.S. army laboratories, National Institutes of Health), and geological surveys in other countries (e.g., Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Norway).

This phase of work will be based on USGS-provided profiles of its laboratory facilities and protocols, preliminary results from the USGS assessment of quality management procedures at its laboratories, and other information gathered by the committee at site visits, teleconference meetings, and elsewhere. The product will be an informal working paper that summarizes factual information about the scope of USGS analytical services, and some of the protocols and procedures used at USGS laboratories and other U.S. and foreign laboratories. The informal working paper, which will not contain conclusions or recommendations, will be shared with USGS managers in spring/summer 2018.

Phase 2

(3) Assess the extent to which resources (operational and personnel) are sufficient to meet the scientific and applications objectives of USGS laboratories (production, research, method development).
(4) Develop criteria for assessing protocols and procedures used by the organizations in Task 2 of Phase 1, and use them to identify relevant best practices and procedures for USGS production laboratories.
(5) Provide recommendations on best practices and procedures for achieving scientific and applications objectives and ensuring the integrity and reliability of results from USGS production laboratories.
(6) Comment on best practices and procedures for USGS research and method development laboratories.

This phase of work will be based on analysis of the information collected in Phase 1 and additional information gathered by the committee at site visits, committee meetings, and discussions with laboratory managers and users. The product will be a consensus report with conclusions and recommendations, to be issued in late 2019.