AuScope creates online access to our continent

Over the past seven years, AuScope has successfully managed the development of a diverse array of Earth and Geospatial infrastructure. The major achievement of the program, upon which everything else rests, is the AuScope Grid.

The Grid is the underlying geoscience information infrastructure that provides researchers, science agencies and exploration companies with unprecedented access to a huge and diverse volume of data.

CSIRO’s Dr Robert Woodcock, who led the project, said the Grid is the glue that holds the AuScope infrastructure investment together.

Dr Lesley Wyborn, formerly of Geoscience Australia, users of the Grid, goes further to say it is the ‘internet of the Australian continent’.

The Grid is much more than a warehouse of information. It makes data on the Australian continent useable. Researchers can build powerful tools based on the Grid to generate insights that were previously just not possible.

The ultimate goal of the Grid was to allow the construction and ongoing refinement of an online, live three-dimensional model of the entire continent and its evolution over hundreds of millions of years.

“The Grid infrastructure enables the capability for unravelling some very big and complex questions about how our continent developed. This has immense benefits for mineral and energy explorers, for education and public policy.

“For example when used to support simulation and modelling software such as AuScope’s Gplates and Underworld, it will lead resource companies to parts of Australia they have never even considered, with the potential to unlock new sources of resource wealth deep under cover. There are also immediate applications for industry to improve and refine the way they are doing things in areas of known potential.”

Dr Woodcock said one reason that exploration in the past had been inefficient and costly was the different ways that State and Territory geological surveys collected data which industry needs to access and use.

“For example, there are many different terms for ‘gold’ in the databases – it might be ‘Au’, ‘yellow’, ‘gold’ or even ’12’. For database managers these are all valid ways to describe gold. However the lack of consistency makes data relating to gold more difficult to access.”

The inability to unify databases had always been the stumbling block, but the Grid Team achieved a breakthrough by taking a different approach. They based the AuScope Grid on a uniform standard for the way in which data is exchanged, with little or no change required in the underlying databases.

“The US and Europe are taking a similar approach, but Australia had made much faster progress and is now exporting some of its newly developed know-how to the international arena.

“The difference has been the cooperative approach of the states, and of course the funding through AuScope. This allowed us to invest in a national project and take it all the way through to create infrastructure of immense value.”

Case Study : Earth and Geospatial infrastructure, Online access

Category: Grid Geoscience Information Infrastructure