Academic journal article LIBRES: Library and Information Science Research Electronic Journal

The Role of Information Professionals in Geoscience Data Management: A Western Australian Perspective

Academic journal article LIBRES: Library and Information Science Research Electronic Journal

The Role of Information Professionals in Geoscience Data Management: A Western Australian Perspective

Article excerpt


The research project investigated the role of information professionals in geoscience data management. Data management professionals in organisations which generate geoscience data across the government, academic and corporate sectors in Western Australia were surveyed. The results indicate that while information professionals were engaged in managing a range of geoscience data and see opportunities to expand their role, the extent of their involvement and the type of data they manage was impacted by their knowledge base, organisational structures, and stakeholder attitudes toward data management.

Keywords: Information professionals, data management, geoscience, professional development


Access to geoscience data is essential for scientific investigation, managing geological hazards, land use evaluation and classification, civil engineering projects, formulating government resource policy and efficient exploitation of natural resources (Cutler & Maples, 2002; Kelly & Phillips, 1986). There is a vast range of geoscience data which requires management, ranging from geological specimens, to non-digital data such as hand drawn maps and field notebooks, through to 3D digital models. A large proportion of modern geoscience data is generated digitally, yet physical data is still produced and access to historical data which predates the digital age remains important.

There is little recent research into the role of information professionals in geoscience data management, and literature relating to the engagement information professionals in the broader field of research data management is focused on digital data, and mainly generated by universities and large scale eScience projects. This study aims to provide insight into the involvement of information professionals in the management of all forms of geoscience data across academic, corporate and government sectors. Through investigating the roles of geoscience information professionals in Western Australia, the study seeks to identify factors which impact on their engagement in geoscience data management, and provide the means to affirm, encourage and promote the work of these professionals for the benefit of all geoscience data stakeholders.

Background and Context

Australia is one of the world's leading producers of minerals (Grant, Hawkins, & Shaw, 2005) and Western Australia is Australia's dominant resource state (Western Australia (WA) Department of Mines and Petroleum and Department of State Development, 2011, p. 2). In Australia geoscience data is generated by universities and government agencies, whose data is publicly available, and by corporate entities where access to data is restricted. Statutory reporting requirements ensure that some corporate data is eventually made public, and there is a complex web of interactions between sectors and agencies engaged in geoscience data generation and management.

Internationally, the creation of the Geoscience Information Society in the United States of America (US) in 1966 saw geoscience information establish a foothold as a separate discipline, gaining international recognition in 1978 with the 1st International Conference on Geological Information in London (Ward & Walker, 1986). The continuing growth of digital data has spurred discussion about how the "data deluge" (Lyon, 2007, p. 5) should be managed, and there is a perception in some sectors that geoscience data management is the responsibility of information technology (IT) professionals (Yacopetti & Mundell, 2010). The focus on digital data has overwhelmed discussion of the management of non-digital geoscience data, and the inter-relationship between different data formats within datasets has been overlooked (Browne & Love, 1997; Lowe, 1995). In the US-and potentially elsewhere-this has culminated in the loss of many valuable collections, with many more identified as in danger of being lost (National Research Council (NRC), 2002). …

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