Saturday, 13 February 2010

Between a rock and a hard place

As I write this I am sitting as a special guest in the Bureau (~Board) meeting of the Commission for the Geological map of the World (CGMW) in Paris. The very first public utterance about OneGeology was actually made at a CGMW General Meeting here in Paris almost exactly 4 years ago – I was kindly given an opportunity by Jean-Paul Cadet, the then President of CGMW, to make an unplanned 10 minute presentation about a half-baked idea. A couple of weeks earlier, in an email to a small group of international colleagues, I had floated some thoughts about a global digital geological map spatial database project, something that had come to me as I was jogging around damp January Nottinghamshire country lanes. The idea didn’t have the name OneGeology in the CGMW presentation; it had the rapidly produced and instantly forgettable working title of global GEO-Map. The name OneGeology was a spark of brilliance by a colleague in BGS – John Stevenson. I don’t think any of us, even now, fully appreciate just how much the success of the project is down to the wonderful simplicity, memorability and unifying nature of that name.

Anyway, I digress, back to the CGMW Bureau meeting and the general subject of this blog. We have just had a good discussion about the un-joined-up state of national geology maps served by OneGeology. Not intra-national inconsistency (I won’t go there, I don’t want to intrude on ubiquitous private grief), but inter-national inconsistency. It was noted that OneGeology is doing well in making national geological map data accessible, but the map data being served doesn’t fit together; the science is not in harmony – the terms, the concepts and the geometry - who is going to sort it out? Good question and one that OneGeology encountered right at its outset. We came to the conclusion that our first goal was to make the data accessible – in whatever state it was in. Anything is better than a white space right? What is happening is that a situation, appreciated some time ago by a relatively small number of experts around the world and one that the core team of OneGeology was aware of too (indeed it was a subtle goal), is now being made starkly evident to all – geology is not joined up and substantial collective effort by us geologists is needed to rectify that. But, adopting the philosophy of all the best management consultants, this is not a problem, it is an opportunity. It is the strongest endorsement of the goals and work of CGMW, an organisation which has, for over a century, picked up the gauntlet to try and take a holistic approach to the geology of our planet.

Closer to home (well at least mine), an element of the continuity challenge is nearer to getting solved. For several months now Work Package 3 of the OneGeology-Europe (1G-E) project has been tackling the problem of defining a specification for rock type (lithology) for this EC project. Intense discussions within the 26 nations of Europe and between 1G-E and the global community represented by IUGS-CGI will result in a vocabulary and data model for the project – one which is a subset of the global scheme. All 1G-E participating nations will begin to “map” their national data to this scheme. Of course some will not be entirely happy – after all any such scheme represents a compromise. But it is a very significant step on the road to recognising and addressing a problem that we geologists need to sort out if our science wants to be a regional or global player.

Finally, here’s a synopsis of the Tweets that have gone out since the last blog….. There are now 115 countries participating in OneGeology - Cuba (Institute of Geology and Palaeontology) is the latest country to join; the Ontario Geological Survey has also joined the team – we welcome them both; the AGU journal EOS published a one-page article on 1G on 2 February; We had a very encouraging meeting with the BBC and 1G could be featured in major documentary - Naked Earth - in March 2011; The February edition of the 1G Newsletter is out; we also had a great meeting with coordinator of European and global GeoParks to discuss linkages with 1G and we will document the linkages we feel are worth developing; and finally thanks to friends in JRC there will be a geoscience session at the INSPIRE conference in Krakow in June. You can follow news on 1G as it happens and the Twitter URL is

Friday, 29 January 2010

It’s all a question of scale?

You may have noticed that the OneGeology portal had a few areas of test 1:50 000 scale data on it for a while – part of a trial going on within the OneGeology-Europe project (a 2 year regional project involving a consortium of 20 nations and funded by the EC) That trial has just moved on a bit further with the prototype release of a 1:50 000 WMS (Web Map Service) for the whole UK on the portal. Essentially it is exploiting data now being served as part of the BGS OpenGeoscience initiative That in itself is a move to open up access to geological data resources, and one that is being given much more impetus as the need to comply with the EU INSPIRE Directive comes closer. Because of the data volumes at 1:50k you can only see this “layer” if you zoom in to 1:70k or greater, but there it is, large scale geological data as a view service for a whole nation. So it seems that the major technical hurdles to national high resolution cover have been surmounted. What wonderful possibilities this opens … international access to detailed geological mapping …… but it also poses a couple of questions……… for OneGeology, and for those national and state surveys who provide geological data to OneGeology. Should OneGeology (global) move on to providing routine access to large scale data where it exists and where geological surveys are happy to serve it? Having given the users an appetite won’t those users soon naturally want WFS (Web Feature Service) access and the much more useful functionality that brings? And then of course as we move into higher resolution data we soon get into the “free or fee” debate, which has powerful arguments on both sides. We all know that managing and serving data has a cost – who should pay? The user, or the government who funds the data provider?

Well having posed a question and stepped aside from answering it, let me quickly move on…. to providing a synopsis of the short notes that appear on the OneGeology Twitter site Of course if you don’t want to wait for me to summon up the courage to write more than 140 characters and would like to get news about OneGeology as it happens – then Twitter (love it or hate it) is where you can see what’s going on….

In no particular order: We welcomed Uruguay as the 114th participant; The Spanish International Co-op. and Dev. Agency is to fund a course - Web dissemination of geological maps in Columbia SA in April; the BBC are coming to talk about OneG in relation to 2 part series on the Earth on 10 February; the new OneGeology for kids pages are up and being well received; OneG will be represented at a variety of meetings and conferences in the coming weeks and months – CGMW biennial meeting, IUGS Executive meeting, GIGAS Workshop on INSPIRE, GMES and GEOSS, EGU in Vienna in May and the INSPIRE conference in Krakow in June; Work on the incorporation of OneG has now moved on to the lawyers’ desk; and last but certainly not least, the Young Earth Scientists (YES) are going to hold a major round table session on OneG at the EGU – that’s a great development!

Saturday, 16 January 2010

new to me - but what do you think?

You may have noticed that the first blogs below this one were collected Tweets - yes I have been persuaded to experiment with both blogging and Twitter as a way of keeping the OneG community up to speed with what's going on. I started with Twitter as 140 characters didn't seem like a tough ask - but while it was initially hard to think of topics, once you do it's hard to stop at 140 characters!

Let's see how it goes. And crucially what your reaction is to both of them. Feedback please!

As I get the hang of this it may/should become a blend of OneG news and also views and questions. Maybe I can also persuade some of the global OneGeology team to become authors on this blog too ....... Anyone up for that?

What did become apparent when I started Tweeting - maybe it should have been obvious, but it wasn't - was just how much OneG-related activity is going on. Maybe not always major stuff like the IGC in Oslo, or the meetings in Buenos Aires, but a steady stream of things happening, things which usually link to much wider and important geoscience and spatial data events and developments. Just looking at these first few days of the year, in addition to the good news of new countries about to serve data, we have invites to submit papers and presentations to some major conferences and OneG is being considered as a candidate as a GEO showcase for the Ministerial Summit in Beijing!

So, not sure how this blog will develop but let's see. Your feedback on whether it's a worthwhile thing to do would be very much appreciated and also what you'd like to see written about.

Looking forward to comments......

Friday, 15 January 2010

15 Jan 2010

Busy time for invites to present papers. Looks like OneG-Europe will be in the EGU session: Large Infrastructures in the Geosciences.

The next editions of the OneG and OneG-E newsletters are being compiled - news and material .... and feedback...very welcome!

14 Jan 2010

Outline proposals for OneGeology symposium at the 34 IGC in Brisbane 2012 have been sent to the organisers of geolnformation supersymposium.

OneG material going to Indaba 2010, Feb 1-4; anyone going? Hopefully big OneG presentation at BGS 175 anniversary symposium in Sept.

Met with business expert to move forward OneGeology incorporation. Next step - briefing lawyers and producing proposal for Steering Group.

12 Jan 2010

Presentations at GeoCanada2010 (1G) and EGU (1G-Europe) both in May have been requested. Abstract for IGARSS in Honolulu in July submitted.

9 Jan 2010

Serbia and Mongolia soon to serve data, thanks to collaboration with Slovenia and Japan