Thursday, December 24, 2009

DataONE network for bio, enviro data

A new interoperable distributed network for biological and environmental data is being funded under the NSF DataNet initiative. Data Observation Network for Earth (DataONE) "will ensure preservation and access to multi-scale, multi-discipline, and multi-national science data. DataONE will transcend domain boundaries and make biological data available from the genome to the ecosystem; make environmental data available from atmospheric, ecological, hydrological, and oceanographic sources; provide secure and long-term preservation and access; and engage scientists, land-managers, policy makers, students, educators, and the public through logical access and intuitive visualizations."

DataONE sounds analogous to what the geoscience community is doing through the Geoscience Information Network (GIN) and the National Geothermal Data System (NGDS), but for bio-based and related data.

This is yet another indication of the convergence I'm seeing among all of the spatially-based domain sciences in digital data - Web-based, interoperable, distributed, and open-sourced.

Invitation to participate in Energy Industry Metadata Standards Initiative

The Energy Industry Metadata Standards Working Group sent out an invitation to parties potentially interested in an initiative working toward metadata standards for the energy community. I'm posting it here for wider circulation:

1. … provides a brief update about the Energy Industry Metadata Standards Initiative, an effort within the energy community to realize metadata standards and guidelines that will enable efficient discovery and evaluation of, and access to information resources both within and between organizations in the community;

2. … outlines work that will begin in Jan. 2010 to collect from such organizations the requirements for a metadata content standard that will support the goals of the initiative;

3. … and most importantly, seeks Active Participants within the community to provide the Energy Industry Metadata Standards Working Group with these requirements.

1. Initiative Update

During 2009, the Energy Industry Metadata Standards Working Group was created, and formulated a plan to develop metadata standards for efficient discovery and evaluation of, and access to information resources within the energy community. The plan incorporated input solicited from the community during

· two workshops held on March 31 and Sept. 30, with 19 and 26 organizations represented at each, respectively;

· review of a draft position paper published July 8 (published Sept. 9 in final form).

Awareness of these activities and the opportunity to provide input were widely publicized, both via email and presentations at seven technical meetings and conferences, including the AAPG Annual Meeting (Denver), ESRI User Conference (San Diego), ECIM Conference (Norway), and Digital E&P Conference (Houston). The results of these activities have been similarly widely publicized. The position paper and information about the workshops are posted on the Metadata Work Group area of Energistics’ web site.

The key deliverable in the plan is the Energy Industry Profile (EIP) of ISO 19115:2003, which is itself a robust, international metadata content specification. Preliminary requirements for the EIP were compiled during the March 31 and Sept. 30 workshops, and supplemented with information provided by members of the Work Group Steering Team. These preliminary requirements will be refined using input collected in 1Q2010 (see below) to identify the minimum collection of mandatory and recommended metadata attributes, and supporting domain values, considered by the community as necessary to support the goals of the initiative.

2. Next Steps

In Jan. 2010, the Energy Industry Metadata Standards Working Group will distribute via email to Active Participants in the initiative a request for input regarding the Energy Industry Profile. Material accompanying the request will provide Active Participants with instructions and facilitate their ability to contribute input about their organization’s perspective regarding requirements for an industry metadata standard. We anticipate providing multiple mechanisms for providing input; the minimum investment required is expected to be 2-4 hours. The deadline for Active Participants to return their organization’s input will be four weeks after distribution of the request.

Active Participant input will be used to finalize the EIP v1.0 Release Candidate specification, a document that will be published to the community for comment in May 2010. Once finalized as EIP v1.0, the specification is expected to be implemented in several pilot projects, the first of which is the result of on-going, formal collaboration with the Geoscience Information Network Project. The EIP v1.0 will be used as a component of the GIN architecture, which in turn will be implemented to enable the U.S. DOE-funded National Geothermal Data System.

3. Call for Active Participants

In preparation for distributing the Jan. 2010 request for input about the draft EIP, the Work Group invites members of the community receiving this email to identify themselves as interested in contributing as Active Participants. Those already identified as an Active Participants should confirm their interest in continuing to contribute at this level. Only Active Participants will receive the email request, and supporting material mentioned in §2 above, for requirements that will yield the EIP v1.0 Release Candidate.

If you are interested in contributing requirements as an Active Participant during this next phase of the initiative, please respond to this invitation by Jan. 11, 2010. Note: We ask that organizations identify a single Active Participant to coordinate, and reconcile if necessary, input from multiple internal stakeholders, and deliver the result to the Work Group.

We look forward to your participation in this industry development effort. If you have any questions regarding the initiative, feel free to contact any member of the Work Group Steering Team (below, and copied on this email), or send email to

Scott Hills
Chevron Energy Technology Company

Steve Richards
GIN Project/Arizona Geological Survey

Lisa Derenthal
Gimmal Group

Alan Doniger

Robert Graham
BHP Billiton Petroleum

David Danko

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Back in the saddle

I started this blog with the best of intentions but.....

This year has turned into a non-stop rush centered around the growing adoption of the Geoscience Information Network, precisely the type of thing I wanted to talk about here.

So, I'm going to try again. Blogging is perfectly suited to following the fast moving developments in technology and community.

Some recent news:

DOE funds National Geothermal Data System -

AZGS launches GIN user site -

GIN developer's site -

State Geologists to deploy NGDS nationwide and populate it with state-specific data -

Energistics releases white paper on metadata standards and adopts GIN and NGDS as prototypes for data integration in the upstream petroleum industry -

Britain's OpenGeoscience

Our colleagues at the British Geological Survey continue to set the bar higher. The release of OpenGeoscience last week got a months worth of visitors in a single day with over 10 million image hits and 300,000 page views.

The BGS announcement describes it as
The site provides the world’s first open-access supply of street-level geological mapping for a whole country - better than 50m resolution - with on-the-fly viewing of bedrock and superficial geology overlaid on street maps and aerial photography. The web map service (WMS) provides access to 1:50,000 scale geological mapping for mash-up use (allowing access via OneGeology) and has open access to 50,000 photos, databases, educational resources, reports and software.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Awash in data

The ESRI PUG (Petroleum User Group) meeting is wrapping up this afternoon in Houston, and I am coming away with a few themes that were prominent.

One is that we are awash in data, but there are huge challenges in discovering, accessing, and retrieving that data.

Another topic that was pushed hard by ESRI's development-meister Clint Brown, is that the Web and online services is the future for GIS.

And third, the is strong consensus on what I call interoperability although that term was not specifically heard that much. But the challenges of dealing with vast arrays of data, using online resources and tools stated above, are addressed by the broad concept of interoperability and all the 'stuff' that makes that happen.

PUG group calls for petroleum metadata standards

There seems to be agreement in the petroleum industry to establish common metadata standards and applications for discovery and retrieval of digital information. The goal is to support both proprietary data and exchange of data between companies.

The Metadata Working Group forum this morning at the ESRI Petroluem User Group (PUG) annual meeting in Houston proposed a metadata foundation based on ISO 19115 for the North American Profile (NAP) with a newly developed Energy Industry Profile. Secondly, the group recommended that the not-for-profit standards consortium, Energistics, serve as custodian to maintain and support the metadata infrastructure.

The presenters/proposers included:

Lisa Derenthal, Gimmal Group

Scott Hills, Chevron

Robert Graham, BHP Billiton Petroleum

Alan Doniger, Energistics

with additional input from Grant Tucker, Shell.

Scott made the point that the metadata is for all information, not just geospatial, to promote the concept that geospatial data are an integral component of the data environment and not something separate. Also, the metadata proposal here is much broader than just the PUG.

Grant showed the ISO Metadata Wizard data entry software/form developed by Shell to facilitate collection of metadata internally.

The audience was fully in support of the metadata proposal outlined today. The organizers met afterwards to lay out a 12-14 month timeline for a position paper, and developing a robust plan to bring to industry. Participants are expected to be energy companies and industry vendors.

Scott sees GeoSciML serving as the data exchange standard to create an end-to-end process for data discovery, access, and exchange.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Fixing geospatial political babel

The Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO) made what may sounds like an obscure bureaucratic proposal recently, but one that could have profound impact on the nation’s geospatial infrastructure. They recommended that Congress include ‘geospatial’ in the name and mission of an existing subcommittee in both the House and Senate to oversee geospatial data and activities.

Currently, responsibility for oversight and authorization of Federal geospatial activities is spread among 30 House and Senate committees and subcommittees. That means there is no consistent national policy and in fact, with geospatial duties scattered among 40 Federal agencies and critical business lines run by the Office of Management and Budget, the plethora of Congressional bodies may create numerous “national policies.” It reminds me of the famous parable about 30 blindmen describing an elephant by each one feeling one part of the massive animal. Each had a completely different interpretation of what it was.

COGO is a coalition of 15 national professional societies, trade associations, and membership organizations representing over 30,000 professionals in the geospatial field [member logos above].

They note that the U.S. government doesn’t even know how much it spends on geospatial information. The last estimate, in 1993, was over $4 billion. That strikes me as ridiculously small for what must be going on today.

The COGO proposal is a sensible proposal that could have explosive ramifications by facilitating a truly national imperative for dealing with geospatial data.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Digital Mapping Techniques workshop scheduled

Plans for the 13th annual Workshop on Digital Mapping Techniques (DMT ’09) were released today. The event is co-sponsored by USGS and the Association of American State Geologists (AASG) and focuses on geologic mapping issues. DMT ’09 is hosted by the West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey in Morgantown, WV, May 10-13, 2009. More info is at for the moment. A dedicated Web site should be up next month.

Monday, January 26, 2009

ScienceDirect feed for computers in geology

There is an easy way to get feeds from ScienceDirect of new publications in a variety of Earth science fields including on the topic of Computers in Earth Science. Chris at Highly Allochthonous posted a set of direct links or you log in with a personal Sciendirect registration, click on 'Alerts' in the main navigation bar, and choose the 'topic alerts' option. Chris listed feeds for GSA publications and others followed with comments on feeds from AGU and other publishers.

Here is the shortcut for the Computers in Earth Science feed:

U.S. IT leadership materially eroded

A new study released by the National Research Council warns that the U.S. "position of leadership [in IT] is not a birthright, and it is now under pressure."

The pre-release of "Assessing the Impacts of Changes in the Information Technology R&D Ecosystem: Retaining Leadership in an Increasingly Global Environment," concludes that,
"the U.S. position in IT leadership today has materially eroded compared with that of prior decades, and the nation risks ceding IT leadership to other nations within a generation unless the United States recommits itself to providing the resources needed to fuel U.S. IT innovation, to removing important roadblocks that reduce the ecosystem’s effectiveness in generating innovation and the fruits of innovation, and to becoming a lead innovator and user of IT."

Their findings and recommendations fall into four broad areas:
  • Objective 1. Strengthen the effectiveness and impact of federally funded information technology research.
  • Objective 2. Remain the strongest generator of and magnet for technical talent.
  • Objective 3. Reduce friction that harms the effectiveness of the U.S. information technologyR&D ecosystem, while maintaining other important political and economic objectives.
  • Objective 4. Ensure that the United States has the infrastructure for communications, computing, applications, and services that enables U.S. information technology users and innovators to lead the world.
I need to read this whole study in detail, but on first pass, the conclusions are not a surprise and the goals seem evident. The challenge, as usual, is getting there.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

National GIS proposed

Jack Dangermond, head of ESRI, is circulating a $1.2 billion proposal to build a National GIS, as part of the recovery and reinvestment plans in Congress.

The proposal is gaining support from state GIS/GIO's around the country, despite some early concerns that the proposal hasn't been fully discussed in the community and the implications aren't fully known. But the sense is that the proposal is gaining traction.

There's been a push in the past couple of weeks to try to get the Western Governor's Association to formally endorse it.

There's some brief excerpts from the proposal at the GIS User blog.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Digital Dirt blog will chronicle development of digital map

Kyle House (Geologic Froth) at the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology launched a new blog the other day to chronicle the development of the Nevada Digital Dirt Mapping Project.

Kyle hopes to "actively engage the relevant members of the geological community in discussing, critiquing, and reviewing the development of the map."

It looks like a fascinating project. The digital maps are expected to have interactive functions such as geotagged photos, GPS points, and located geochronological data.

Monday, January 5, 2009

NSF investment in digital libraries questioned

An article in this week's issue of Science raises the question of whether NSF's investment of $175 million in the National Digital Science Library has paid off.

Author Jeffrey Mervis ("NSF Rethinks Its Digital Library") says "the payoff from NSF's investment, which has averaged almost $18 million a year [right], has been hard to quantify. Its biggest advocates admit that relatively few educators and researchers have even heard of NSDL, much less visited the Web site or contributed material. It's proven to be no match for Google as a search engine for finding good sites. And there's no evidence to date that NSDL has improved student learning. Although NSF officials insist that NSDL has been a success, the agency is in the process of reducing its support for digital libraries."

In a companion article, Mervis describes the history of DLESE (Digital Library for Earth Science Education). He reports that "in 2005, after getting a scathing report from a visiting committee on how NSF's $21 million investment had been managed, NSF decided to phase out its support. After much soul-searching, a slimmed-down DLESE found a home in 2007 within UCAR's National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, where it is now part of NCAR's library."

These are two examples of the sustainability challenge, whether it's NSF or other funding. What happens when the funds run out after developing a new capability? How do you maintain cyberinfrastructure after it's built? We are all looking for answers.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Welcome to the Digicene era

In 2000, Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen coined the term Anthropocene to recognize that humans have become a significant geologic agent, and thus "it seems to us more than appropriate to emphasize the central role of mankind in geology and ecology by proposing to use the term 'anthropocene' for the current geological epoch."

An article in GSA Today last February proposed adoption of the Anthropocene as a new geologic epoch, stating that, " since the start of the Industrial Revolution, Earth has endured changes sufficient to leave a global stratigraphic signature distinct from that of the Holocene or of previous Pleistocene interglacial phases, encompassing novel biotic, sedimentary, and geochemical change."

So, with tongue-in-cheek bravado, I propose that somewhere in the last decade, we entered a period where digital and online technology are intersecting with the Earth and space sciences to change the way we work, think, and view the nature of our science. I humbly submit that we define this age as the Digicene, for "digi-" referring to "digital," and "-cene" the Greek root for "new."

The rise of the new age is indicated by the formation of the Geological Society of America's Geoinformatics Division, and the American Geophysical Union's Earth and Space Informatics Focus Group. The latter is the fastest growing area in AGU and hosted 22 sessions at the Fall meeting last month. The National Research Council's Board on Earth Sciences and Resources held a day-long roundtable on geoinformatics as well last month, as a prelude to studying the needs and challenges of the rapidly expanding field.

My intent with this blog is to share news and developments, comments, and opinions about what's happening in the broadly defined area of geoinformatics. I've posted a few items in my other blog, "Arizona Geology" but that forum is aimed at a specific audience and fairly well-defined set of topics. I've felt constrained in talking about geoinformatics there and have thought for some time that a separate blog is warranted.

I join a small group of geoinformatics bloggers including Robert Huber and Jens Klump ( Internals), Kyle House (Geologic Froth), Ramon Arrowsmith (Arrowsmith blog), and Andy (Open Source Paleontologist). As the geoblogosphere has mushroomed in the past two years, I expect the cadre of geoinformatics blogs will expand commensurately.