Geological data management

BGS Data – National Geoscience Data Centre

The BGS Information Management (Geology) Project populates and maintains a number of key geological databases and other information systems.

This is done in collaboration with other teams within the Survey who rely on these well-managed and mature data sets to carry out their research, and to create products, publications and services.

The BGS Information Management (Geology) Project maintains the Borehole Geology database which holds geological interpretations of boreholes drilled in Great Britain; it is one of our key data sets.

The Borehole Geology database is normally used in conjunction with another database, the Single Onshore Borehole Index, which is the index to borehole records that we hold.

The interpretations stored in the Borehole Geology database are made from borehole logs that show the geology encountered at depth within each borehole. In many cases, these logs were created by the geotechnical companies responsible for drilling the holes, and supplied to the BGS.

In other cases, the logs may have been made by our own geologists, either at the time of drilling, or subsequently from core samples, many of which are held at BGS.

The Borehole Geology database is a primary source of data used to characterise the subsurface geology of Great Britain.

It is heavily used for creating 3D models, including the National Geological Model.

The database holds more than three million records, relating to more than 600 000 boreholes.

The data are stored in standardised coded formats that ensure interoperability with our other data systems.

We have a continuous rolling programme of validation and verification, to make sure the data remain fit for use in producing our products and services.

The BGS Information Management (Geology) Project maintains a number of databases relating to economic minerals and construction materials of the UK, Europe and further afield.

BritPits — The Mines and Quarries Database

BritPits, also known as the Mines and Quarries Database, stores data describing active and inactive onshore mineral workings, as well as rail depots and wharves involved in mineral commodities movement.

We populate and maintain these data, and they are used periodically by our minerals team to produce the ‘Directory of Mines and Quarries’, which can be purchased from the BGS online bookshop or downloaded for free from the MineralsUK website.

The data are also used by the BGS and by our customers for market intelligence and analysis, and resource planning. The data may be licensed for use in developing value-added products.

UK and World Mineral Statistics Database

The UK and World Mineral Statistics database contains detailed statistics on economic minerals production and trade.

We maintain these data; they are also used by our minerals team for market intelligence and analysis.

The database is also used by our minerals team annually to produce World Mineral ProductionEuropean Mineral Statistics, and UK Minerals Yearbook.

These publications provide reliable information to policy makers, regulators, industry and the public. They may be purchased from the BGS online bookshop or downloaded for free from the MineralsUK website.

National Stone Database

The National Stone Database (NSD) is currently under construction and brings together data on the building stones of the UK, their source quarries, and the samples and buildings that are associated with them.

The database development is funded jointly by BGS and Historic Scotland, and has been supported and informed by the Strategic Stone Study (carried out in collaboration with English Heritage).

We assist in constructing, populating, and maintaining the database.

The NSD will be used to answer enquiries and support BGS projects; it will also be accessible to the public and should be of interest to a wide range of end users.

Further information about building stones, and a portal allowing search of data collected for the Strategic Stone Study, may be found on the MineralsUK website.

We host the National Archive of Geological Photographs, which includes pictures taken by the Survey’s geoscientists as well as collections acquired from other organisations. There are many historical photographs and images of contemporary interest. The pictures can be searched and downloaded from Geoscenic.

National Geotechnical Properties Database

The BGS Information Management (Geology) Project maintains the National Geotechnical Properties Database.

This primarily holds data and information from site investigations carried out for civil engineering purposes.

The information is supplied to us by clients, consultants and contractors either as paper records or as Association of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Specialists (AGS) digital data transfer format.

A small number of data points are from laboratory test results carried out by us.


In the mid-1980s data were stored in a series of flat file geotechnical datasets generated for the applied geology mapping projects of urban areas; funded by the then Department of the Environment.

These were inefficient to use and difficult to manage. A decision was made to create and populate a relational database and this is now the national database with 54 data tables and 33 dictionary tables.

This information forms the basis for the geotechnical attribution of 2D and 3D digital geological models and underpins our core and commissioned engineering geology research.

Database design

The design of the database is currently based on the AGS industry standard for Electronic Transfer of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Data version 3.1.

It contains data relating to the project, the boreholes and pits within the report (including British National Grid Reference and geology), full descriptions, in situ measurements and results of tests on samples.

The distribution of data generally reflects the requirements of our projects including UK Rocks and Soils Lithostratigraphical studies, or the areas covered by Ground Information for Sustainable Development and geohazards projects.

Much of the data are from site investigations for major trunk road construction schemes and other major engineering projects.

Data are added from paper records or AGS digital data transfer format, which is the preferred method as they can be added quickly without transcription errors.

AGS files have been added from the Highways Agency Geotechnical Management System (HA GDMS).

Site investigations in AGS digital data transfer format have greatly increased the coverage of the database.

Depositing data

In order to improve the national coverage of the database and its usefulness, the BGS would be very grateful to receive site investigation data in AGS file format.

Deposit your AGS data with the Data Deposit Portal.

We make extensive use of ‘controlled vocabularies’ to promote standardisation and interoperability between our databases and other information systems.

The BGS Information Management (Geology) Project gathers requirements and populates, promotes and maintains the key geological vocabularies, including those for rock and sediment types, and geological time.

Rock Classification Scheme

The Rock Classification Scheme (RCS) sets out a practical, logical and robust system for classifying and naming geological materials.

The Rock Classification Scheme is described in a series of four free pdf reports authored by BGS geoscientists.

It is also implemented as a database which is used to constrain and standardise references to geological materials in our other databases and information systems. Search the RCS database.

Other geoscience vocabularies

We maintain numerous controlled vocabularies in order to standardise terminology across the Survey’s products and services.

These vocabularies cover subjects as diverse as geological time, published BGS geological maps, lithological properties (e.g. grain size and shape, colour, hardness), sedimentary structures, structural geology, chemical elements, types of laboratory analyses, and many more.

Many of these vocabularies may be browsed online, or may be accessed via a vocabulary web service.

The BGS Information Management (Geology) Project maintains Lexicon of Named Rock Units.

This is a database of definitions of rock units and other geological deposits that we recognise in the UK and on its continental shelf.

As well as being a repository of knowledge, the Lexicon is used to constrain the lithostratigraphical attribution of other BGS information systems.

These include DigMap3D modelsGeoReportsGeology of Britain Viewermobile apps, and many more.

The Lexicon holds approximately 19 500 records. A full Lexicon entry includes details of the rock units:

  • age
  • geographical extent
  • lithology
  • lower and upper boundaries
  • name and rank
  • parent unit
  • thickness
  • type localities

The Lexicon can be searched online. It is regularly in the top ten most-viewed pages on the BGS website.

Enquiries about the Lexicon of Named Rock Units should be made to Dr Tim McCormick.

BGS Stratigraphic Framework and Lithodemic Scheme Reports

These are the result of cooperation between the BGS Stratigraphy Committee and the Geological Society Stratigraphy Commission, with the aim of reviewing the stratigraphical classification for all parts of Great Britain for which modern information is available. The reports are available for free download in pdf format.

Lithostratigraphic Nomenclature of the UK North Sea

During the 1990s, we worked with the United Kingdom Offshore Operators Association (UKOOA, now Oil & Gas UK) to compile a revision of the existing UK North Sea lithostratigraphical nomenclature, and to establish a new standard scheme.

Seven large format volumes were created, which are now available for free download in pdf format.


The Geological Timechart provides colourful reference material, for use in schools, colleges and the home, setting out the geological timescale and geochronological terms used by BGS.


Need more information?

For general NGR and NGDC enquiries or to arrange a visit, please phone 0115 936 3143 or contact our enquiries team

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