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ONE WORLD - ONE GEOLOGY by gyvwpsjkko


IN THE INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF THE      In March 2007, in Brighton, UK, 81 geoscientists from 43 countries
                                      across the world gathered to consider a proposition – would they be
PLANET 2008 – READ WHY GEOLOGY        prepared to collaborate to create a global interoperable geological
                                      map dataset? The answer was a resounding “Yes” and the proposition
MATTERS AND WHAT THE WORLD'S          became an initiative, known as “OneGeology”, which now has the
GEOLOGICAL SURVEY ORGANISATIONS ARE   support of 65 nations. The concept of scientists producing a “map” of
                                      the rocks of the planet available via the internet caught the imagina-
DOING ABOUT IT.                       tion of the world’s press too and pretty soon a website which had
                                      been seeing fewer than visitors a day got 30 000 in an hour! What
                                      generated such interest?

                                      Think about it – Geology matters!
                                      First, geology is important. Quite apart from the fact that without
                                      geology geographers would have nowhere to put themselves, consid-
                                      er natural resources and natural disasters - we are desperately short of
                                      the former and suffer too often from the latter. So knowing what the
                                      rocks are beneath your feet is pretty crucial – even in somewhere as
                                      geologically “stable” as the UK, clays that swell and shrink cost the
                                      insurance industry more than £300 million a year! Add to this the
                                      growing public interest in the environment and in particular climate
                                      change and solving the problem of excess CO2, or where energy is
                                      going to come from, and you begin to understand the interest.
                                           While there is geological map data in existence for much of the
                                      planet, it is not always easy to find, not always in digital form, and if
                                      you do locate it, you are likely to find that it is neither interoperable
                                      nor in scientific harmony - and I explicitly include Europe here, which

34                                                       July/August 2007 | GEOconnexion International Magazine
should make for interesting times as we                         to begin the creation of a digital geological               The objectives followed logically:
move towards INSPIRE compliance! None of                        map of the planet, initially at a pragmatic                 • Make existing geological map data
this is news in the geological community. For                   scale of ~1:1 million? Would geological                        accessible in whatever digital format is
several years a small number of people have                     surveys, who were already pondering ways to                    available in each country.
been working to accelerate the development                      make a tangible contribution to IYPE, be                    • Transfer know-how to those who need it,
and promulgation of simple, basic and                           prepared to act as the sustainable data                        adopting an approach that recognizes
essential digital geological map standards                      providers of this global dataset? Would the                    that different nations have differing
and specifications to improve the interoper-                    vehicle of creating a global geological “map”                  abilities to participate.
ability and sharing of data and move structur-                  be a more palatable way for geoscientists to                • Stimulate a rapid increase in interoperabil-
al interoperability forward. Some of the                        get involved in the development and                            ity, i.e. disseminate GeoSciML faster.
readers of this article will be aware of the                    progress of an emerging global geoscience
development of a high-level geoscience data                     data model and interchange standard? The                    The scope became clear - OneGeology would
model and the interchange format GeoSciML.                      initiative had enormous potential to transfer               be about making geological data available in
However, as promising as GeoSciML is,                           much needed know-how to developing                          a standard data structure first, i.e. providing
understanding and take up by a geoscience                       countries and reduce the length and expense                 access without geological reconciliation. To
community which is large, but dispersed and                     of their learning curve, while at the same                  the disappointment of some in the profes-
focused on science and not interoperability, is                 time producing maps and data that could                     sion, the prime objective was not the
slow.                                                           attract interest and investment.                            harmonisation of geological units and
     Thus, the two main and closely related                                                                                 scientific classification across frontiers. While
drivers for the OneGeology initiative are that                  Why OneGeology?                                             all recognise the ultimate desirability of this
geological data is relevant to our future on                    Early in 2006 the principles and objectives of              goal, it was one which would sink the project
the planet, but you can’t share it. Add to this                 the OneGeology proposition emerged. Like                    before it began and as such had to be
a few more facts - the hidden data riches                       most projects which catch the imagination,                  something for the longer term.
“locked” away in geological surveys and                         the fundamentals were simple, basic and
organisations around the world; the lessons                     unifying, but most of all they were timely.                 The Mission and the Accord
learned in many individual nations who have                         The principles were that geological                     OneGeology has adopted a simple mission
built geological spatial databases; the                         surveys and geoscientists around the world                  statement.
emergence of regional spatial data infrastruc-                  have a responsibility to:                                   Make web-accessible the best available geologi-
tures; and the hard to ignore exemplar of                       • Make accessible the best geological map                   cal map data worldwide at a scale of about 1:1
Google Earth - and the geoscience communi-                         data they have now.                                      million, as a Geological Survey contribution to
ty has more than enough reasons to act.                         • Work towards consistent standards for                     the International Year of Planet Earth.
                                                                   data and access - schematic interoperabili-                   It is an inclusive mission to which six
International Year of Planet Earth 2008                            ty.                                                      international bodies have added their collec-
Enter International Year of Planet Earth 2008 -                 • Enhance and increase the use and usabili-                 tive weight. In doing so, endow the initiative
IYPE. Could this UN Year provide the catalyst                      ty of their data.                                        the global credentials essential to play on a

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                                                 involved. Brighton resulted in a large amount      cant injection of core funding to accelerate
                                                 of interest from prospective participants and      the development and take up of the informa-
                                                 others and engagement and recruitment              tion systems and protocols and the provision
                                                 continues. Perhaps most importantly, the           of technical aid and resources to those in the
                                                 momentum and profile gained in 14 short            developing world, then progress will be
                                                 months must not be lost – it is not often          slower than most participants wish.
                                                 geology gets attention from the world’s                 There is no lack of will, but there is a lack
                                                 media! The decision was made to hold a             of national funding to develop the common
                                                 “technical” meeting as soon as possible to         infrastructure, provide the glue money and
                                                 take forward a prototype OneGeology portal.        the outreach that an altruistic project like this
                                                 The purpose is to build something that will        needs. Progress would also be slower for a
                                                 allow geoscientists and wider society to           project with so much to offer society and
                                                 appreciate tangibly just what OneGeology           governments, national and international.
                                                 will deliver, and at the same time provide a            OneGeology is a venture entirely in
                                                 “strawman” to move forward through a build-        accord with the aims of those who wish to
                                                 review-revise strategy. This technical meeting     increase access to Public Sector Information,
                                                 took place in Utrecht, NL, on 30-31 May 2007       to develop Spatial Data Infrastructures, and to
                                                 and the resulting Action List is available from    see science taken out of its esoteric closet
                                                 the URL below. A second meeting is                 and employed for the benefit of society who
                                                 scheduled to progress the management               funded it. We look forward to those who have
                                                 aspects of the initiative, tackling such issues    influence over such funding recognising the
                                                 as intellectual property rights, strategies for    synergies that exist here, grasping the chance
world stage.                                     assisting developing nations and communi-          to leverage a huge amount of national
    The Brighton meeting produced a              cation.                                            intellectual capital and momentum and
unanimous “Accord” that provides the                                                                support a worthy proposal. The opportunity
governance, technical and political essentials   Fundamental Funding                                is there and timing is everything.
for OneGeology. The real work of implement-      A fundamental issue is funding. The
ing the project could only start after the       OneGeology enterprise is predicated on             Links:
Accord was agreed.                               individual geological surveys providing the        OneGeology:
                                                 manpower and data to make their own                Action List:
Next Steps                                       territories available. Some surveys, including
Since the March meeting, an international        the British, Netherlands, Italian and French
governance structure has been agreed in          geological organisations have agreed to            Ian Jackson, Director of Information, British
detail, and a Memorandum of Understanding        devote additional resources for coordination       Geological Survey, UK. Ian may be contacted on
has been signed by the global bodies             and core activities. However, without a signifi-

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36                                                                                             July/August 2007 | GEOconnexion International Magazine

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