Request for Information and Public Virtual Dialogues on commercial Earth Observations and Geospatial Data and Services practices

The United States Group on Earth Observations (USGEO) is preparing a document containing best practices for Federal government procurement of commercial Earth observation and geospatial data and services, per the 2019 National Plan for Civil Earth Observations. Information from private sector providers and users; academia, and the public is critical to that effort, and therefore USGEO is seeking public input. This notice invites the public to submit written comments on the topic generally and in response to specific questions outlined below, and to attend one of four virtual forums. Comments: Provide your comments by 30 June, 2021 via email to

Virtual Public Meetings:

  1. June 2, 2021, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time – Link to Register
  2. June 9, 2021, 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time – Link to Register
  3. June 16, 2021, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time – Link to Register
  4. June 23, 2021, 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time. – Link to Register

This is a request for information only. This RFI is not a request for proposals (RFP) or a promise to issue an RFP or a notice inviting applications. This RFI does not commit the Department or Federal Agencies to contract for any supply or service whatsoever. Further, we are not seeking proposals and will not accept unsolicited proposals.

Best Practices Guide

USGEO also seeks to understand the opportunities and impacts of the Departments and Federal Agencies moving to commercial Earth observation and/or geospatial data, analytics and services. Through the RFI and public dialogs, USGEO will use the inputs to create a public document intended to inform Federal agencies about best practices they could consider when purchasing commercial Earth observations and/or geospatial data, analytics and/or services.

USGEO has drafted a background document that has more information about providing inputs to this best practices guide, read here.

In addition to general comments, USGEO is seeking comments on the following areas:

  1. Using a consistent set of definitions in solicitations and contracts will aide in acquisition of Earth observation and geospatial information. Please comment on definitions for Commercial Environmental Data; Commercial Environmental Data Buys; Commercial Earth observation services; Commercial Geospatial Data and Information Acquisition; and derived products.
  2. Data sharing (redistribution) rights are a critical factor in these procurements. The government has different Licensing frameworks, please provide comments as to the feasibility of a single framework across all purchases. Please provide information on barriers associated with the various licensing frameworks. Specifically:
    1. When considering data sharing rights, how should the Federal government consider the best value and return on investment for the taxpayer?
    2. What are useful categories of data sharing rights, both within the Federal government and externally? Categories could be defined by user type (e.g., sharing with other Federal Government agencies, foreign agency partners, academia, the general public), by use cases (e.g., commercial, non-commercial, scientific/research, operational), others?
    3. What are creative options for expanding data sharing rights without significantly increasing costs to the Federal government? For example, permitting sharing of data at a coarser spatial resolution, at full resolution with a time delay using sunsetting dates after which data reverts to the public domain, by permitting only non-commercial reuse, or permitting public release data used in scientific studies and reproduction of scientific information?
    4. How can contracts address the Federal government’s use of products derived from commercial data, including for products for public release?
    5. If a contract allows some or all data to be shared outside the Federal government, are there challenges with sharing such data under a standard open license (such as those described at, to ensure those third parties understand their use rights?
    6. How should the Federal government solicit information about the cost of different data sharing rights in the context of a specific procurement?
  3. If you have responded to Federal government commercial Earth observation and/or geospatial data requests for proposal, please comment on challenges faced in responding to the requests.
  4. Please identify acquisition processes that would facilitate your ability to respond to Earth observation and/or geospatial information business opportunities.
  5. Are you aware of the various Departmental and Agency roles related to Federal Earth imagery acquisition? What types of information would help clarify those roles?
  6. Do you prefer to work individual procurements with multiple agencies and programs or would you prefer to interact through larger coordinated multiple agency contracts?
  7. The Departments and Agencies increase their reliance on commercial Earth observations and geospatial data, services and analytics there may be technical, scientific, legal, and other impacts.
    1. What are the ramifications for academic researchers?
    2. What are the ramifications for the private sector, both provider and downstream?
    3. What are the ramifications for the public?
    4. What are the ramifications for the international community?
  8. Legal Issues
    1. Many standard commercial end user license agreements include terms that the Federal government is unable to accept, including indemnification, choice of law, dispute resolution, etc., many of which are replaced by applicable parts of the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR). Does this create any legal issues for data providers?
    2. What is the industry perspective on certification and validation of commercial data?
    3. What are the legal issues companies are facing when providing commercial data, analytics, information and services to meet Federal agencies operational missions? For example, regarding liability?
  9. What are the main, non-technical barriers to increasing the Federal government’s procurement of commercial data? This could be barriers due to acquisition practices, licensing agreements, Federal government’s need for technical information to understand how data are collected and processed, and/or needs/constraints of vendors.
    1. Of these barriers, which would be feasible to resolve in the near or mid-term?
    2. How do these barriers or the Federal government’s requirements compare to non-governmental customers? If significantly different, does that make diversifying your customer base more difficult, and/or increase the prices offered to the Federal government?
  10. What can the Federal government do to better foster the development of businesses and start-ups that provide commercial data or derived products?
  11. What trends do you see in commercial Earth observations and/or geospatial information?