Marine environmental data are used for scientific and applied research, economic activities and sustainable environmental management, at regional, European and global scales. Geological and geophysical data for the seabed and sub-seabed are an important category of such data, and providing user communities with access to marine geological and geophysical data, data products and services is essential. This requires a European-wide data infrastructure, standardised practices by data centres, and middleware so that users can search for and access data and products online.

For Europe a major share of geological and geophysical observations for the oceans and seas is collected and analysed by national geological surveys and research institutions. In addition, substantial volumes of data are collected by industry, government departments, academia and environmental organisations, either directly or by sub-contractors. These additional data are often deposited with the geological surveys and research institutes. The national geological surveys have extensively sampled and surveyed the seabed and sub-seabed of the European seas over recent decades. Research institutes complement this with samples, cores and geophysical data, both from European seas and the world oceans.

The research and analytical results are published in the scientific literature and as maps showing the geology of the seabed and sub-seabed. Until recently, this was the ‘secondary' and disparate source of most data used in research. Nowadays many primary data and data products are managed by the national geological surveys and research institutes as digital records in local databases. Increasingly these primary data are made available via the websites of the organisations, mostly by means of catalogues, and in some cases by online data access facilities.

The overall objective of the Geo-Seas project is to implement a distributed e-infrastructure of interconnected marine geological and geophysical data centres in Europe. This will facilitate locating, accessing and delivering federated marine geological and geophysical data and data products from national geological surveys and research institutes in Europe to various user communities through a single common data portal.

Examples of primary datasets and data products that can be delivered by Geo-Seas to the user communities are bathymetric data and digital terrain models, lithological data, sediment grain-size data and geotechnical data. These types of data are important inputs to predictive modelling systems, and environmental monitoring and management networks.

The development of Geo-Seas as a distributed infrastructure supports the aims of the EC FP7 Capacities Work Programme by:

  • providing integrated and structured services to the research community at European and global levels;
  • responding to the needs of the scientific community for access to data;
  • responding to the strategic research needs;
  • building an ICT-based infrastructure system;
  • underpinning the development of e-Infrastructures.

SeaDataNet is the leading initiative in this field and will be a key component of EMODNET, the European Marine Observation and Data Network, that the EU is planning to design and implement within the framework of the new Marine Directive and Maritime Policy.

SeaDataNet is actively operating and further developing a Pan-European infrastructure for managing, indexing and providing access to ocean and marine data sets and data products, acquired via research cruises and other observational activities.

Geo-Seas will expand the existing SeaDataNet marine and ocean data management infrastructure to handle marine geological and geophysical data, data products and services, creating a joint infrastructure covering both oceanographic and marine geoscientific data.