OR/14/061 Executive summary

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Watson, C, Baker, G, and Nayembil M. 2014. Open geoscience data models: end of project report. British Geological Survey Internal Report, OR/14/061.

This report describes a three year knowledge exchange project, Open Geoscience Data Models, which was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Knowledge Exchange programme. The project was aimed to encourage an open sharing of geoscience data models amongst a community of Geological Survey Organisations (GSOs), industry and academics. The data model is a key part of successful information management because it provides a centralised description of the meaning and inter-relationships of the information. An online repository for data model designs would be created, providing access to open, ready-to-use database designs that are free for all. The project would attempt to build a self-sustaining community that would develop these designs, and contribute additional designs, to meet the needs of the wider environmental community.

The stated objectives of the Open Geoscience Data Models project were:

  • Support NERCs Environmental Monitoring objective of 'Enabling environmental data sets to be applied in new commercial and societal services and products'
  • Contribute to the ongoing global improvement in the quality of geoscientific data
  • Contribute to the ongoing efforts to ensure water security
  • Improve efficiencies within the global community of geoscientific data owners and consumers
  • Generate economic opportunities for the BGS and UK plc

The majority of time spent on the project was directly related to the technical aspects of the work, adapting existing data model designs for a wider audience, producing introductory and technical documentation and creating the websites to disseminate these outputs. Knowledge exchange communications with project partners took place regularly and has continued after the project officially ended. Special technical and community building visits helped to cement relationships between community members whilst presentations at international conferences raised awareness of the project aims and outputs.

By the end of the three years the project team had delivered on each of the stated objectives, had produced two separate web resources, one branded as part of the popular BGS website and another designed as an independent community website. A large amount of plain English documentation was produced and data model designs were all made available for free download via the two project websites.

New contacts and knowledge exchange relationships were established and have already lead to new collaborations that would not have happened without the project taking place.

Despite the wide spread need for quality data modelling, it was apparent that in many organisations and projects, data models are seen as an necessary yet incidental step towards an applied end use rather than as an output in their own right. One way to make more data models openly available would be to require publically funded projects, which involve geoscientific data storage, to produce public versions of the underlying data models produced.

This project has shown that Geological Surveys around the world face similar challenges and require similar data models, the level of knowledge varies greatly but there is a genuine appetite to improve how geoscience data is used, this requires quality data model designs. It is the belief of the project team that there is enough enthusiasm for this topic to justify both:

  • a permanent resource for sharing data model designs, ideas and lessons learnt, and
  • a workshop or dedicated session at an international geoscience conference focussing on international issues and best practice in the field of geoscience data models