I am working on a thematic site map for a scientific study. In addition to my own data that will be displayed on the map, I have included reference data from U.S. federal agencies (e.g. National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) by United States Geological Survey (USGS)). Because NHD is in the public domain, my understanding is that I am free to reproduce it, but I still must acknowledge USGS.

So, do I need to cite a public domain source? If so, what information must the citation include?

  • This might be a better fit in Academia
    – Vince
    Jan 30, 2019 at 2:02

1 Answer 1


Including the reference on the map layout is considerate to your fellow mapmakers, who may look at your map and wonder, "Wow, that's some great data! Where can I get that for my own maps?"

My goal is to make it as unobtrusive as possible, so as not to distract from the main point of the map.

  • One way is to combine acknowledgments with other uninteresting but necessary information ( eg coordinate reference system) in a single line in a small font at the bottom of the map, eg:

    CRS: WGS84 EPSG:4326

  • Or you can include reference/copyright info next to the layer name in the legend:

    enter image description here

Regarding "how specific?" I like to be as specific as will fit on a single line. If I have many sources of data, I would condense it as much as possible. For example, Google Maps displays copyright info at the bottom of the map. Multiple sources of imagery are lumped together, while 'map data' is listed separately.

enter image description here

If the map is full-page, there should be room on the page for a single line. For smaller inline maps, include acknowledgements as you would references, eg as footnotes, or footnotes pointing to a reference section at the end of the article.

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