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
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
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
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
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:
- Life. Big Data will help to identify
environmental factors impacting the evolution of life and shed new light on
current biodiversity concerns.
- 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.
- Geography. Paleotectonic, paleoclimate,
and resource studies all require enhanced paleogeographic reconstructions with
high resolution spatial and temporal data.
- 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,
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
What makes DDE different from other geoscience computer
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.