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Address : British Geological Surveys, United Kingdom
Celebration date : 23 Tuesday September 2008
Author name : Ian, Jackson

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  • Article title : No-one said it would be easy (with apologies to Sheryl Crow)
    Article type : Other
    Location : International Geological Congress,oslo 2008

    Fulltext :

    When you look at the parallel evolution of geological survey organisations across the world, it’s apparent that the most successful (as measured by the only true Key Performance Indicator for a geological survey - their effectiveness in serving their societies) have recognised that, while their core business is making maps and models and doing scientific research to underpin that, the commodity they actually deal in is data and information and knowledge and that in a digital world the better they organise the data and information and knowledge (hereafter called IM), the more successful they will be. Those who have looked hard at our future world, where e-science will surely dominate, are already sub-titling themselves as information or knowledge transfer organisations. Look closely at how efficient these leading surveys are at running their projects, how agile they have been in responding to government agendas or national emergencies, and how flexible they are in delivering products their diverse users want and you can see the pivotal role of best practice IM and the tangible benefits a responsible approach to acquiring, storing and delivering information brings. But even in these most successful surveys the people leading IM will tell you that it was a gargantuan battle to get the resources to achieve this success and that, even with the downstream fruits of the investment in IM now obvious, it is a continuing struggle to maintain a decent level of funding for IM. It’s not hard to see why; the struggle is innately one-sided; we geoscientists are born and/or trained to be curious, to be independent and to innovate. If the choice is between more research and survey, or a professional approach to IM and the adjudicators are geoscientists, it’s easy to pick the winner. So what does lie behind a successful approach to IM in a geological survey organisation? First, recognise that poor IM cannot just be cured by investing in hardware and software; it is the geoscience data content (its availability, quality and consistency) that is in greater need of investment. Second, to achieve the full synergies and benefits IM must be planned into all domains of the Survey and all project phases - acquisition, processing, analysis, dissemination and storage. Adequate investment in front office applications and services to communicate and deliver geoscience to all our stakeholders is essential; without it back office work, however, worthy, is nugatory. Finally, the widely accepted truth is that the real challenge in introducing professional IM is not technical or scientific, but cultural and managerial. Unless you can sensitively and positively change the work patterns and culture of Survey geoscientists a sustainable outcome will remain beyond reach. Of course to change the work pattern and culture of the geoscientists you must first ensure that the most senior management of the organisation embrace the change wholeheartedly. Who said good IM was easy?

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