Plans to Develop an Extensive ‘Geological Google’ at an Advanced Stage


Earth scientists rely on geological finds and data for their research activities. Access to fossils and such data is often limited because these are locked up in physical databases in a few locations. All that is set to change for earth scientists as one of the world’s most massive collection houses in Nottingham in the UK goes digital. The onboarding of these physical records is a large-scale collaborative effort by organizations and scientists from all over the world.

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All in all, three large warehouses from Nottingham with close to 3 million fossils have been acquired by the British Geological Survey (BGS). These geological samples were amassed over a period of about 150 years from thousands of locations. Information about what is stored and other important notes about the finds has been largely inaccessible, existing in paper form, up until this pending relocation.

The international effort seeks to take the databases into a network of databases for the earth scientists known as Deep-time Digital Earth (DDE). Researchers are excited about this move which has been attempted before but without the needed support and finding. This time around, the Chinese government has committed to providing these, so a smooth transition is expected.

DDE obtained the backing of the International Union of Geological Sciences’ executive committee late last year. They believe that having a centralized and easy to access database is a breakthrough for earth scientists. Research on big questions such as biodiversity variation over time and systems of groundwater in Africa can be explored more fully with the database in place.

This week, tens of geoscience bodies and international scientists are set to meet in Beijing to lay the framework to get DDE set up and functional. The goal is to have that done by March 2020 in time for the International Geological Congress in New Delhi.

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