GSI has been assembling information on Ireland's geology and subsurface for more than 160 years. The traditional maps and reports of earlier decades have been augmented more recently by digital maps, satellite images and borehole records. These latter are the results of data-rich initiatives such as the Irish National Seabed Survey, INFOMAR and airborne surveys (part of the Resource and Environmental Survey of Ireland, RESI). As a result GSI now holds an impressive array of information which it seeks to share with Government, industry, researchers and the public.
The EU INSPIRE (Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe) Directive provides the context within which GSI will ensure its data is made accessible to users. INSPIRE is a legal framework designed to ensure data concerning the environment is available on an interoperable basis among existing and potential users and providers. As a result this directive will be a valuable tool in addressing the environmental challenges confronting society. INSPIRE envisages the establishment of integrated spatial information services, based on a distributed network of databases in EU member states, linked by common standards and protocols to ensure compatibility and interoperability. Geology is one of the designated themes and Eurogeosurveys, the Association of Geological Surveys of the European Union, is collaborating with the European Commission to ensure its datasets are integrated affectively. GSI staff serve on various Eurogeosurveys working groups concerned with implementing INSPIRE.
Some radical steps were taken in 2007 to enhance the GSI ability to serve the needs of its users for data access. Firstly, it was decided that all GSI data would be made available free of charge with the aim of maximising their use by both existing and potential users. Secondly, the decision was made to make GSI data available as quickly as possible in digital format over the web. Given that GSI data holdings currently amount to 7Tb, this was no easy challenge. However considerable progress has already been made based on the seabed data which is already digital and these data are now available. In announcing these developments the Minister, Mr. Eamonn Ryan, TD, stated: "The free dissemination of this data is intended to stimulate the economy within the environmental, exploration, construction and geoscience sectors."
Two initiatives during 2007 facilitated the implementation of this policy decision. The first, the Spatial Data pages on the GSI website, is a series of simple map viewers which is coupled with pre-zipped data packages which permit free downloading. The second is the Interactive Web Data Delivery System (IWDDS), developed as part of the INFOMAR Project in cooperation with the Marine Institute. The resulting facility, developed by Australian consultants, allows a customer to zoom into a given area, query what data are available and then download whatever is required free of charge. Although developed specifically with INFOMAR seabed data in mind, the facility is now being extended to include all GSI data holdings.
Our website www.gsi.ie underwent a transformation during 2007 and we believe in its current state it is more user-friendly. It does not require any prior knowledge of GSI services or data on the part of the user and it provides seamless access to our mapping and data delivery systems. Do check it out!
The provision of relevant information remains a journey requiring considerable investment. Customers seek a digital 3D appreciation of landscape and subsurface, but GSI is not yet at the stage where its data are available in 3D. Future effort is required to provide a suitable 3D visualisation system which will facilitate maximum use of the data. Future investment, as available, will be directed towards providing new seabed and land-based datasets, such as might be provided by the INFOMAR and RESI initiatives respectively, which are required to support decision making in areas such as land use, environmental protection and natural resource management. All of these developments will also require the parallel development of monitoring and modelling services, such as will underpin the fourth dimension and facilitate the use of critical geoscience information in environmental management. We also need to forecast future environmental changes based on modelling the effects of climate change and shifting population trends.
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