Tuesday, 17th September 2019

UK scientists pave the way for open data to be at the heart of public decision making on natural resources

Geoscientists have launched an open data source from a world-first network of observatories investigating the underground, designed to put scientific evidence into the heart of decision making on the natural environment.

The British Geological Survey (BGS), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and researchers from 20 leading earth science institutes have joined forces to develop plans for a world-first observatory that would provide unprecedented data, information and knowledge on the rocks beneath our feet.

The UK Geoenergy Observatories will serve up one of the world’s most comprehensive datasets on the underground environment, and this is being made open to industry, business, government, regulators and communities in real time wherever possible.

Prof Mike Stephenson, executive chief scientist for decarbonisation at the BGS, said: ‘Many of the solutions to decarbonisation, climate change and environmental management lie beneath our feet. We’re creating world-class observatories to monitor this environment and we have set out to make as much of the data from them freely and openly accessible to the UK public.’

‘The UK Geoenergy Observatories have been designed so any scientist or research team working in this area can access the data. We hope this will lead to exciting new international science collaborations and the speeding up of the accumulation of knowledge.’

BGS data analyst Carl Watson said: ‘Data is today’s most valuable commodity: by joining the movement to open data up to everyone, we can leverage global capability to address some of our biggest challenges.’

The observatories will set the standard for environmental monitoring and empower society to make evidence-based decisions on the ever-increasing pressures on the underground, whether that’s around using rocks to store excess carbon emissions from the atmosphere or using geothermal energy to heat us.

NERC director of corporate affairs Alison Robinson said: ‘ Making sure people have access to robust, impartial scientific evidence is always important. Given the degree of public debate surrounding geoenergy, we worked with Sense about Science to make sure that everyone who is interested would be able to get hold of sound, impartial information in ways that people can understand, can use and would meet their expectations.’

Tracey Brown OBE, director of Sense about Science, said: ‘Engagement with the public on the open data source is on a different scale to what has gone before and it sets a precedent for the future. NERC and the BGS consulted widely with people in the local area as plans for the observatories were developed. Sense about Science is taking this open approach even further, bringing the BGS and NERC together with community and environmental groups, open data experts and other researchers, to co-create the open data source.’

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