The Deep-time Digital Earth Project (DDE)

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)
The Deep-time Digital Earth Project (DDE)

Having access to digital geological data, along with access to new platforms and environments, is critical as our world comes together for positive transformation and teamwork.

Today, we have a unique opportunity to speak with the leadership of the Deep-Time Digital Earth Project (DDE), who have taken the time to introduce us to its mission and its resources.

What is the Deep-time Digital Earth project? Who are the main partners and participants?

The Deep-Time Digital Earth (DDE) is an International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) ‘Big Science’ program that seeks to harmonize global deep-time Earth data with new protocols, platforms, and programs. The goal is to create secure, compatible, and interoperable geologic databases to aid a data-discovery approach to geologic analysis.

The main partners and participants include the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), the British Geological Survey (BGS), the Commission on Geoscience Information (CGI), the Commission for Geological Maps of the World (CGMW), the China Geological Survey (CGS), the Russian Federal Geological Foundation (FBGU), the International Association of Geomorphologists (IAG), the International Association for Mathematical Geosciences (IAMG), the International Association on the Genesis of Ore Deposits (IAGOD), the International Association of Sedimentologists (IAS), the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS), the International Paleontological Association (IPA), and the Russian Geological Research Institute (VSEGEI).

The DDE program will build on several decades of programs promoted by IUGS in collaboration with UNESCO and other organizations including the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), the Global Sedimentary Geology Program (GSGP), the International Geoscience and Geopark Program (IGGP), the Commission of the Geologic Map of the World (CGMW), the Global Geochemical Baseline (GGB), the International Lithosphere Program (ILP), and OneGeology.

What is the main mission, vision, and long-term goals of DDE?

The overall mission of DDE is to help harmonize and integrate digital earth evolution data and enable sharing of global geoscience data, information, and knowledge. The vision of DDE is to transform our understanding of Earth through the support of broad-based, multidisciplinary scientific studies relevant to the entire Earth system. Long-term goals of DDE include enhancing the way geoscientists access, store, collaborate and utilize geoscience data.

DDE will enable the building of bridges between disconnected data islands and allow newly aggregated datasets to be interrogated using modern tools and techniques. This approach will help facilitate a ‘data-driven discovery research paradigm' in geosciences to help enable breakthroughs driven by observations on a global scale.

An overarching objective of the DDE is to enable researchers to establish links between geologic processes, products, and tectonic plates and their boundaries, to aid in creation and improved understanding of Earth’s interlinked physical, chemical, and biological processes.

What are the short-term goals of DDE?

DDE hopes to create awareness of its program across academia and industry, begin the process of raising funding and formally launch the program at the next meeting of the International Geological Congress.

How will the DDE help organizations and communities in the world?

DDE research will focus on four major areas of endeavor:

  1. Life.  Big Data will help to identify environmental factors impacting the evolution of life and shed new light on current biodiversity concerns.
  2. Materials.  Deeper investigation of spatial and temporal distribution of mineral deposits with respect to their paleogeographic and geological location during Earth’s history is becoming increasingly vital for modern industry, technology, and decarbonization.
  3. Geography.  Paleotectonic, paleoclimate, and resource studies all require enhanced paleogeographic reconstructions with high resolution spatial and temporal data. 
  4. Climate adaptation.  Groundwater data and its impact on food production, for example, become increasingly important as populations adapt to changing climates.

DDE collective efforts will enhance protocols for standardization, integration, and association of diverse geologic data, making previously unavailable data more accessible to various disciplines for analysis with new workflows.  For example, geological survey data generally cover larger, more regional geographic areas with few data types; whereas academic research and government data is often more geographically localized, but with a larger array of data types, many of which are unstructured or unsearchable. The goal is to help connect these dispersed and isolated data islands.

With a global database of accessible and reusable geologic data available, data-driven collaborative research can be conducted by way of linked networks of experts in the various branches of geoscience, and also extend to collaboration with other subject matter experts including engineers, social scientists, and economists.

What is the fundamental philosophy for the future?

DDE aims to facilitate appropriate mechanisms and artificial intelligence techniques needed to assist organizations and geoscientists in making their data findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR).

What makes DDE different from other geoscience computer data bases?

DDE is unique in that it aims to be an open access platform, a ‘geological Google’, intended to guarantee equal accessibility and opportunities for all organizations and individuals ranging from school and university students to researchers, industry professionals to government agencies, in both developed and developing countries.  The DDE platform, which will include a desktop system, can be easily used by geoscientists, students, and teachers, in the classroom and in the field. 

What makes the DDE organization confident that its approach will succeed?

DDE offers the unique opportunity to help organize and energize earth research with a global ‘Big Data’ approach that might not otherwise be readily available to researchers. With the IUGS backing and global reach, as well as commitment from well-known international societies and organizations, a global and data-driven approach to geoscience research will be more readily accessible. DDE intends to extract key learnings (successes and failures) from organizations that have well-designed and executed databases and help extend the reach and impact of geoscience researchers. In addition, DDE will have the ability rapidly share best practices across sub-disciplines and help drive a data-driven, global approach to new discoveries.

For individual researchers and teams DDE presents an opportunity to expand the reach and impact of their research through global collaboration. Participants and networks will be able to leverage DDE tools, capabilities, and workflows into new arenas of endeavor.  With an organically-growing membership and a data base of high utility, fidelity, and ease of use, an ability to use advanced analytical tools will help drive groundbreaking research and insight into deep geologic time.

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