In the valued storage areas of AAPG offices in Tulsa, in electronic files and databases, cabinets and binders and loose leaf folders and online archives there are approximately a half million maps, photos, AAPG BULLETINs, AAPG publications, well logs and other important geoscience information.
To cull through it all – separating, if you will, the wheat from the chaff – is time consuming, inefficient, frustrating and often fruitless.
And it’s heavy.
Helping AAPG move deeper into the 21st century is Datapages Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of AAPG that is the digital publisher for both AAPG and the geoscience community. It digitally captures geological publications – including the services of the Archives, Search and Discovery and GIS-UDRIL – and archives them to electronic media, thereby ensuring their future viability.
And helping Datapages get that job done is AAPG member Peter Wigley.
Wigley, a London-based consultant, is a long-time director on the Datapages board – and an expert in data acquisition, storage and utilization. It was only natural that he be named director of the soon-to-be-launched Datapages Exploration Objects (DEO) initiative.
DEO, an exciting and potentially significant advancement for data-seeking geoscientists everywhere, promises to be what Wigley calls a digital “deep indexing program” that will euphemistically cram reams of paper and materials into a desktop Geospatial Information System (GIS) application so users could have ready access to the material – all the material, or just the material that was needed.
He was a natural for the director role because:
Wigley’s vision for DEO was and is to use cutting-edge technology to make data and other information easily accessible to all geoscientists.
And it’s not that there wasn’t information already to be found online; the problem was it was cumbersome, difficult to locate and, once discovered, often incomplete.
“At the moment, if you want to access the information online,” he said, “you go into a little search screen, click the boxes you want to search, and if you’re lucky, something comes up and you find something.
“If you’re not, you get nothing,” he quickly added. “I mean, it’s ok, but it’s a little clunky.”
Well, he wants the possibility of that “nothing” to go away. And he hates clunky.
“What would be really good,” he said, “instead of just accessing this archive from a text search, is if people could access the archive from a map.”
With the map as the interface – the actual browser – he hopes that users will be able to go “deep, deep down” into the archive itself.
“We don’t want to stop at the title, because embedded into the article are lots of figures, namely maps, seismic sections, cross sections, core photographs … a whole suite of things called exploration objects.
“We want to get right down into that.”
To do that, obviously, he had to first make a deep index from which users could mine. That body now consists of 550,000 entries – with 10,000 more entries coming on each year – and within those entries are layers and layers of additional information.
He uses the word “metadata,” a word he says he hates, but nonetheless describes DEO.
“It’s data about the data.”
At the moment, this system’s details are still evolving, but he says DEO will be available as a subscription and will be “really dynamic.” With all the good work out there, he says, especially in the area of (Search and Discovery), “we need to be on top of that.”
Wigley emphasizes again – in fact, he did so on a number of occasions during the interview – that it is the deep index that will be the most prized possession and most difficult hurdle of DEO
“It’s the creation that took forever,” Wigley says of the index, which began in the 1990s.
One of its special features is called “geo referencing,” which entails tagging a map so it can be pulled into a GIS application and used with other map layers.
“But you need to add the coordinates so it lines up in all the right places,” says AAPG member Ron Hart, AAPG Datapages manager.
“It used to be, you buy a text book, you had just the book,” Hart said, “but now you have all the supporting information online.”
According to Hart, with the old system, it could take users four-eight hours to even locate the map he or she wanted.
“And now it can be done with a click of the mouse,” he said.
It will be an Internet-based delivery system to customers, which will be quite a difference from, literally, the voluminous binders that companies used to receive from AAPG.
Time is a big byproduct. Now, in keystrokes, people can access information that took hours – like extracting maps.
“We literally used to ship it out to them in binders.”
Hart added that users no longer want to wade through, literally, mounds and mounds of materials, maps and reports, which is why GIS applications are so in demand.
As you can imagine, to compile all this information in one place is not cheap.
“It’s costing a huge amount of money bringing this stuff together and keeping it operational,” Hart said, explaining the reason the system will be a subscription service.
“The idea is that they will get full global searching,” promising that those who use the system will be, in a sense, at an “all-you-can-eat buffet.”
For the system to have any worth, though, it needs to be updated regularly. Both Wigley and Hart say this will be done on a monthly basis once DEO is up and running – something they both say will occur in March.
Specifically, Wigley says a company in India is working on converting file formats from images to georectified map layers.
For Wigley, who created a similar index for the Exploration Fabric of Africa Project and who’s now a bit closer to retirement, says he can see the light at the end of this digital tunnel.
“The bones of the index have been established, so from there I have been able to create a 10-year test.
“It’s payback time for me,” Wigley said on why he’s willing to spend the next part of his career in a sunny room at his Devonshire house, watching sheep in the field and building the database.
“When you get to a certain age, and if you don’t like gardening – and I don’t – I want to do something,” he said. “I have been a member of AAPG since 1974, and it’s time to give something back.”