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Name of Collaboratory :


GEOsciences Network (GEON)


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URL :  

Collaboratory Status :

In Development   Start Date : 2002 End Date : Info Last Updated : Mon, Oct 31 2005 4:00am PST

Primary Collaboratory Function :

  Community Infrastructure Development  

Secondary Collaboratory Functions :

  Distributed Research Center  

Domain(s) :

  Earth science, geoscience, geoinformatics  

Brief Description of the Collaboratory :


GEON is a collaboration between computer scientists and geoscience researchers with the goal of creating a modern cyberinfrastructure for the earth sciences. Specifically, GEON's purpose is to enable scientists to access, synthesize, and model geoscience data from a wide variety of sources. GEON will consist of digital libraries containing freely available data from many geoscience disciplines, along with an integrated set of software tools for access, analysis, visualization, and modeling. Integrating, analyzing, and modeling geoscience data is a major challenge because of the extreme heterogeneity of data formats, storage and computing systems, and conventions, terminologies, and ontological frameworks that are found in the disciplines that comprise the earth sciences.

One of GEON's main goals is semantic integration. To that end, GEON researchers developed an ontology based search prototype for geological maps that allows users to integrate maps from nine state geologic surveys in the Rocky Mountain region. Previously, this was a time-consuming task because of the different classification schemes used by the states. GEON is also utilizing ontologies developed by other geoscience projects such as CHRONOS and the Southern California Earthquake Center Community Modeling Environment(SCEC/CME).

GEON grew out of a series of NSF-funded geoinformatics workshops that began in 1999. The early meetings did not include computer scientists. With encouragement from NSF, geoscientists began talking with computer scientists, and each discipline realized that they could help the other. For example, computer scientists understand ontologies, but they do not have the domain knowledge to develop them. In the beginning, communication between the geoscientists and computer scientists was difficult, but this has improved over time.

GEON has a mostly informal management structure. There is no single person who makes decisions. Major decisions are made with input from project participants. Some formal structure is needed, however, to respond to matters that require a quick turnaround. The Internal Coordinating Committee (ICC), comprised of 6 people, deals with ongoing issues that do not require participation from all GEON members. The ICC meets weekly via videoconference. GEON Principal Investigators (PIs) meet face-to-face twice a year, and an All Hands Meeting is held once a year.


Access to Instruments :


Access to Information Resources :

  GEON is at the beginning of its development, so few resources are currently available. GEON researchers have developed an ontology-based search for geology maps. Geology maps are difficult to integrate from one state or country to another because, for example, different terms are used to describe the same geologic time period. In the next couple of months (i.e. summer of 2004) a first version of the GEONgrid portal should be available. It will allow users to experiment with the ontology based map search and five or six other demonstration projects. The ultimate vision of the GEONgrid portal is to provide tools for data discovery and access and to provide a temporary workspace for users to conduct their research activities such as copying GEON data sets of interest, modifying them if needed, and utilizing them in any of the GEONgrid's functionalities. GEON recently teamed up with TeraGrid, which will provide the project with additional access to supercomputers and to powerful desktop systems. GEON's partnership with Lawrence Livermore Laboratory will also increase the computational resources available.

GEON has developed three methods for data sharing. Large data holders, such as the U.S. Geological Survey, maintain their own data but serve it in a way that is accessible by GEON. Individuals have two ways in which they can make data available. First of all, people can obtain software from GEON and establish a GEON node and then maintain the data themselves. Secondly, individuals can give their data to GEON to serve and maintain. All data sharing approaches require data owners to provide metadata. GEON project participants are currently discussing the minimum level of metadata required.

Access to People as Resources :

  Communication between computer scientists and geoscientists and among geoscientists from different sub-disciplines is often very challenging. Face-to-face meetings between project participants are highly valued because they are seen as an efficient way to improve communication. Every six months, the Principal Investigators (PIs) meet face-to-face at one of the geo-PI institutions. The first All-Hands Meeting took place in San Diego in May 2003, and there are plans to meet annually from now on. In addition, joint workshops are held between geoscientists and computer scientists as needed. Scientists who are not participants in GEON are invited to these as necessary. Videoconferencing and e-mail lists are other means that participants use to communicate. The Internal Coordinating Committee (ICC) is a group of 6 people that meets weekly via videoconference.

Funding Agency or Sponsor :


Notes on Funding Agencies/Sponsors:
Funded under a 5-year, $11.25 million NSF Information Technology Research initiative.

Organizations with Funded Participants:
Organization name:
Approx # of participants:
Description of organization's role(s):
University of California, San Diego (UCSD)
   San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC)
Infrastructure design and development
   Department of Sociology - UCSD
   Department of Communication (UCSD)
Evaluation and assessment of social workings in GEON
Rice University
   Department of Earth Science (Rice University)
Pennsylvania State University (Penn)
   Department of Geography - Pennsylvania State University
Information visualization
Arizona State University
   Department of Geological Sciences (ASU)
Home of PI for active tectonics
San Diego State University
   Department of Geological Sciences (SDSU)
Information visualization
University of Idaho
   Department of Geological Sciences (University of Idaho)
Home of the PI for structural geology
University of Missouri
   Department of Geological Sciences (University of Missouri)
Home of the PI for geodynamics
University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP)
   Department of Geological Sciences (UTEP)
Home of the PI for the Rockies testbed
University of Utah
   Energy & Geoscience Institute (EGI)
Home of the PI for biostratigraphy
   Department of Geology and Geophysics (University of Utah)
Seismology, tectonophysics
University of Arizona
   Department of Geosciences (University of Arizona)
Home of the PI for paleontology, paleobiology
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VirginiaTech)
   Department of Geosciences (Virginia Tech)
Home of the PI for the Mid-Atlantic testbed
Bryn Mawr College
   Geology Department
Home of PI for metamorphic petrology
Organizations with Un-Funded Participants:
Organization name:
Approx # of participants:
Description of organization's role(s):
University of California, San Diego (UCSD)
California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Cal-(IT)≤)
Digital Library for Earth System Education (DLESE)
Setting up a GEON node and providing base maps
Geological Survey of Canada (GSC)
Concept spaces, ontologies
University of Kansas
Kansas Geological Survey
University of California System (UC System)
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)
Department of the Interior - U.S.
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Global positioning system

Notes on Participants/Organizations:
IT research in GEON is coordinated by Chaitan Baru, and includes researchers from SDSC, Penn State University, and San Diego State University. The geoscience research component of GEON, coordinated by A. Krishna Sinha of Virginia Tech, includes researchers from the following universities -- Arizona State University, Bryn Mawr College, Rice University, University of Arizona, University of Idaho, University of Missouri, University of Texas-El Paso, University of Utah, and UNAVCO. The Digital Library for Earth Sciences Education (DLESE) is a partner in the project and is coordinating the GEON education and outreach program. Two other major GEON partners are the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC).


Communications Technology Used :


Technical Capabilities :

  Management of technical resources
Access control/login facilities
Asynchronous object sharing
Asynchronous conversation
Synchronous conversation
  Key Articles :  

Keller, G. Randy (2003). GEON (GEOScience Network)--A first step in creating cyberinfrastructure for the geosciences. Electronic Seismologist, July/August, n.p.. Retrieved January 29, 2004, from


Project-reported performance data :

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