Spatial Information – INSPIRE

The Spatial Information Expert Group provides Pan-European and national geological datasets and services from the Geological Surveys of Europe through the European Geological Data Infrastructure.

What, Why, How...

The Spatial Information Expert Group (SIEG)

We live in a digital world. Spatial information – organised data that has a spatial location – is used for almost all aspects of our lives: navigation, weather forecasting, managing land use, physical infrastructure, environmental change. Less commonly considered, but of key importance is subsurface (geological) data. Understanding the subsurface is crucial for informing policy to address the many challenges of the green transition. For example, easy and efficient access to digital subsurface data is crucial for prioritising competing surface and subsurface uses such as agriculture, city infrastructure, and mining, for sustainable management of water, energy, and minerals, and for monitoring and understanding landslide risk and land subsidence.

Recognising the social, environmental, and political importance of subsurface data, EuroGeoSurveys has collaborated on many EU projects for almost two decades, generating large volumes of harmonised pan-European data. However, in 2014 an analysis of these projects showed that only a small fraction of the data continued to be available online, only a few years after projects had ended. To secure data integrity and deliver findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (FAIR) data through a common, sustainable, open access online platform, the European Geological Data Infrastructure (EGDI) was launched in 2016. Since then, EGDI has become the cornerstone of the EuroGeoSurveys network and is seen as the path to a future sustainable Geological Service for Europe.

But the world has not always been digital. The Geological Surveys of Europe have collected large volumes of subsurface, geological, data for decades and in some cases more than one hundred years. These data – geological maps, observations, samples etc. – have been collected in different formats and using different methods, often in analogue format. So, another of the key goals of the SIEG is to gather, digitise and harmonise the various data held by the Geological Surveys of Europe and deliver them through EGDI. Such harmonised, borderless data, gathered over decades, are imperative for sound Europe-wide decision making.

Today, EGDI holds more than 800 data layers of data, many documents, and a database of 3D models. The data relate to onshore and offshore geology, mineral resources, earth observations and geological hazards, energy, geochemistry, groundwater, and urban geology. And the data are visualised through a map viewer, downloadable, and searchable via text, a document repository, a metadata catalogue, and through map services and layers.

Vision

The vision of the SIEG is to continuously develop a user-driven, subsurface data infrastructure and knowledge network to inform policy, the scientific community and to feed European data platforms.

Our projects

From its early days, EGDI has grown in data volume and functionality in significant part through the Horizon 2020 ERA-NET on Applied Geosciences (GeoERA). GeoERA involved a dedicated information platform project to develop common map viewers for 14 geoenergy, groundwater and raw materials projects, and local to pan-European datasets. This platform – feeding directly into EGDI – was designed to conform to the INSPIRE Directive and CGI standards, and in line with the EU’s Open Data Directive and digital strategy. EGDI will continue to be a central focus for EuroGeoSurveys through the Geological Service for Europe project, a Coordination and Support Action running until 2027, which will later transition into a sustainable Geological Service for Europe. The SIEG also aims to incorporate new technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data processing, and using solutions that involve knowledge representation, learning, natural language processing, advanced methods of search and mathematical optimisation, and more. The future will take us beyond harmonisation and standardisation, delivering innovations on how subsurface information is processed, visualised, and accessed, ensuring the future usability and long-term sustainability of EGDI.

The SIEG continues efforts to connect EGDI to other data infrastructures such as EMODnet, EPOS, and WISE, bringing geological data, information, and knowledge to new audiences, and vice versa. SIEG members are also active in the Geoscience Information Consortium, a global initiative for the exchange of information among the Geological Survey Organisations on the use and management of geoscience information systems to support Earth science internationally.