AuScope GRID

The AuScope Grid component set out with the ambitious goal of changing the way the geoscience community, across a broad cross-section of state and national organisations, exchanged and accessed data. The successful project involved both technological development and social change. In many ways the Grid was the core of the original AuScope Infrastructure System.

Data, information and knowledge management were central to the AuScope Infrastructure System as outlined in the original Investment Plan in 2006. The AuScope Grid was designed to be the foundation; to enable the progressive construction, refinement and ongoing enrichment of an online, live, four-dimensional Earth Model (see AuScope Infrastructure System page) for the Australian Continent. It was to be the vehicle that enabled geoscience and geospatial data and information to be combined with current knowledge.

The Grid was designed to enable the whole AuScope Infrastructure System to be greater than the sum of its parts. Over the term of the project the Grid has delivered several core products including:

  • The AuScope Portal allows access to a wide range of data types and services available for discovery and use:
  • The Spatial Information Services Stack is an interoperable Spatial Data Infrastructure, SDI and has multiple product deployments within Australia and internationally:
  • The AuScope Service Registry is publically available and harvested by the Australian National Data Service, ANDS and discoverable on Research Data Australia, RDA:
  • The ANDS IGSN minting service, which enables users to mint and assign International Geo Sample Number, IGSN identifiers to physical samples associated with research:


The AuScope Portal was built with a dual purpose. The first goal was to make all new data and information collected by AuScope components accessible as online web services. The second goal was to enable this new data information be able to be combined seamlessly online with the vast amounts of data and information available from the principle Australian Government geoscience and geospatial agencies.


The Government geological and geospatial agencies of Australia have amassed substantial volumes of data, but were technologically challenged and limited in their capacity to store and dynamically access the data internally, and then deliver online to clients, partners and stakeholders. Further, the agencies developed individual data and information systems to meet their own internal business drivers, which resulted in heterogeneous systems that were unable to be linked together.

AuScope Grid achieved a breakthrough by taking a different approach to accessing data. Rather than trying to get each supplier of data to conform to a nationally agreed data model, CSIRO’s Dr Robert Woodcock and his team set out to create a unified system that enabled the exchange of data, with no change required in the underlying databases of the supplier; each data supplier would map from their internal systems to an agreed suite of exchange standards.

The Grid makes data accessible in these standards, meaning data from multiple heterogeneous sites can be seamlessly linked together, online and in real time in a cost effective way.

The greatest impact of the work of AuScope Grid is that applications can now be built that access the data in standardised formats without the need for reformatting. The Grid is close to being able to achieve the original goal of the AuScope Earth Model. Providing a fundamental science information infrastructure, has seen wide utilisation and uptake.

Linking communities

AuScope took the view that there had to be crosscapability communication with other NCRIS Capabilities (e.g. IMOS, TERN, Atlas of Living Australia) as well as other research communities (Water, Spatial)to enable integration of the new AuScope compute and data grids. To achieve this, AuScope Grid built and maintained much of the base computing technologies to gain better leverage of resources and share with other NCRIS Capabilities.

The Grid worked closely with Australia’s State and Territory Geological Surveys to deploy spatial data infrastructure developed under SISS. All surveys committed to deploying and the majority have completed their deployments and intend to sustain the services beyond the original NCRIS project.

Grid infrastructure is now used by:

  • Geothermal CoE,
  • CoE for 3D Mineral Mapping,
  • Virtual Rock Laboratory at University of Queensland,
  • CSIROs Minerals Down Under Flagship,
  • 14 universities and,
  • is the reference implementation for the National Plan for Environmental Information and the Bioregional Assessments Infrastructure.


On the international stage, the collaboration of AuScope and CSIRO made a substantial contribution to the joint international development of open geoscience information standards. Many of the standards developed and used by AuScope are now part of international initiatives like One Geology and the International Union of Geological Sciences. The European Union INSPIRE project is mandating the use of GeosciML, co-developed with members of the AuScope Grid team, to achieve spatial interoperability across Europe. Grid powers the web access for NVCL, which has provided a globally unique knowledge-base of the mineralogical content of tens of thousands of the nations drill holes totalling in excess of 690,000 metres of drill core.

Researcher uptake in consuming services provided under the Grid Project is on the rise and considered an essential part in planned research programs; GPlates at The University of Sydney now uses AuScope Grid services. Further uptake within Australia’s premier research organisations and government agencies, including CSIRO through the Minerals Resources Flagship, is both consuming and contributing services to the AuScope infrastructure. Geoscience Australia has deployments of its national data holdings for geophysics to the AuScope infrastructure combined with analytical, e-research workflows.

Internationally, AuScope Grid has contributed to the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) standard GeosciML. AuScope and the CSIRO are considered to be key infrastructure providers to this important effort. Further, the Australian Earth Resource ML standard, developed by the Geological Surveys and AuScope is now being promoted as an international standard via the IUGS.

Building a virtual Community of Practice

AuScope established a collaborative TWIKI website: This online collaboration environment facilitates effective communication, coordinates project development and leads to rapid dissemination of results. Each project has its own virtual community in which researchers can participate and comment on project directions. This open approach facilitates linkages between each community and enables common elements and generic workflow patterns across the communities to be leveraged and exploited. The AuScope TWIKI will enable greater cohesion across geographic and discipline boundaries and lead to the creation of a true online, virtualcommunity of practice for geoscience and geospatial researchers.

Future Usage

A number of the more complex SISS components are supported by a broader international community as part of their respective open source communities. It is clear from these communities that the additional features developed under SISS have been adopted into the core code base and are receiving some additional development work from these groups with particular support for the European Union spatial data infrastructure project INSPIRE. The SISS geoserver enhancements to support GML application schemas, performed in collaboration with the AuScope and IUGS GeoSciML communities, has resulted in a substantial conformance test suite being developed.

The relationship between BoM-CSIRO-GA-ANDS-and others, and the general uptake of SISS has led to significant interest in using SISS for several national SDI initiatives with Government including the National Environmental Information Infrastructure. Deployments are already underway. CSIRO’s corporate IT group has a pilot project using the AuScope SISS infrastructure to publish CSIRO’s spatial data holdings across the organisation and externally as an enterprise service.

The Virtual Geophysics Laboratory, which uses the AuScope infrastructure for data access, has generated substantial interest with Geoscience Australia seeking to make the VGL an operational component of its systems. The CSIRO Mineral Resources Flagship is seeking to extend the concept to a broad range of geoscience analysis tasks. The Geological Surveys of Western Australia and South Australia are also seeking to expand their data services to include analytical capabilities in conjunction with industry and academia following the VGL example.

For more information on current and potential projects or accessing AuScope’s Grid and Interoperability infrastructure component for a project of your own please contact Program Leader, Dr Rob Woodcock