BGS news

Ten years of sharing: how OpenGeoscience is changing the face of research

18/12/2019 By BGS Press
BGS iGeology app in action
BGS iGeology app in action

December 2019 marks a decade since BGS launched OpenGeoscience, an online portal which has made a vast array of open UK geological data searchable and more accessible for everyone to use.

Launched in 2009, OpenGeoscience was originally created to allow further study of the UK’s rocks.

Highlights included a simple Google Map-style interface to the BGS digital geology map for Great Britain – a world-first in terms of releasing nationwide digital geological data in high resolution for anyone to study and re-use. BGS also released thousands of photos through the portal to illustrate and categorise some of the country’s most fascinating geological features.

Ten years on, the portal has expanded dramatically and it now provides a home for an extensive suite of free-to-view educational tools and resources, in addition to the GeoIndex for professional users to the benefit of over 80 000 visitors every month.

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OpenGeoscience goes far beyond helping you or me to search whether an earthquake is likely to happen at home.

We’ve found that the data has made a significant difference to a diverse range of professional, academic and recreational user groups, everyone from our local authorities and universities, to the construction industry and our emergency services, even a local caving club.

Prof Kate Royse, BGS Chief Digital Officer.

This gigantic trove of information now includes access to over a million borehole logs, 6000 scanned versions of its maps, 3D-scanned fossils and more than 3000 online documents, memoirs and publications covering 184 years of geoscience.

Users can explore different rock types and access dozens of layers of data, detailing everything from bedrock geology to important minerals, soil types, groundwater levels, and hydrocarbon wells. Users can even see a timeline of earthquakes locations and magnitudes, access seabed samples, and drill virtual boreholes in selected locations.

Between 1 and 10 December, BGS is marking a ‘decade of data’ by showcasing some of the extraordinary benefits of making its geological data freely accessible, and it is not just the public who have benefited.

Increasing numbers of private sector companies are using newly released geoscience data to expand existing information services and develop new products, both critical for a low-carbon future.

Access to the scanned collection of UK onshore borehole logs has grown by a factor of 100 since the service was launched. Today, over 200 000 logs are accessed per month, with increasing numbers of site/ground investigation companies using the data when offering services for sustainable initiatives such as ground-source heat pumps and water well installations.

The same dataset is used for environmental assessments often carried out as part of local planning or development applications.

Meanwhile, the BGS’s popular geological map of Britain can still be viewed online, but a new 3D beta version is also available bringing a new immersive perspective to the geology of the UK. Its equivalent smartphone app, iGeology, helps users to ’discover the rocks beneath your feet wherever you go’ and can be downloaded anywhere. To date, the app has clocked over 370 000 downloads in more than 130 countries.

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It’s not simply that data can be seen by more people or used more widely.

What’s more profound is that over the last decade the data has been leveraged, shared and meshed with other data, which makes it valuable not only for advancing research and scientific collaboration, but promoting learning, innovation and more informed decision making.

Prof Kate Royse.

For further details or to arrange media interviews please contact:

Sarah Nice, British Geological Survey Press Office, Keyworth, Nottingham, NG12 5GG

Office: +44 (0)115 936 3605
Mobile: +44 (0)7989 115 657
Twitter @Sarahnice1

Notes for Editors

  • Available for interview: Prof Kate Royse, chief digital officer, British Geological Survey
  • A 10-year timeline outlines the growth of OpenGeoScience and can be viewed here: For more information visit:
  • More information on iGeology can be found here:


BGS Open Geoscience

Open Geoscience is the British Geological Survey’s home for open data, and includes a variety of free-to-view or download resources. The BGS is celebrating 10 years of sharing data through Open Geoscience with the hashtag #DecadeofData

Open Geoscience interesting facts:

  • Over 370,000 downloads of iGeology smartphone app in 134 countries since its launch in 2010. Over 1,000 radon reports purchased and 2.15k Natural Subsidence reports purchased through iGeology.
  • Over 1.3 million boreholes.
  • Over 113,000 downloads of MySoil app since its launch in 2012 and over 2,440 soil sample descriptions submitted by user.
  • Over 18,000 downloads of MyVolcano smartphone app since its launch in 2014 with over 700 volcano ash observations submitted.


British Geological Survey

The British Geological Survey (BGS) is a world leading applied geoscience research centre that is part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and affiliated to the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). BGS core science provides objective and authoritative geoscientific data, information and knowledge to inform UK Government on the opportunities and challenges of the subsurface. It undertakes national and public good research to understand earth and environmental processes in the UK and globally. The BGS annual budget of approximately £60 million pa is funded directly by UKRI, as well as research grants, government commissions and private sector contracts. Its 650 staff work across the UK with two main sites, the head office in Nottingham and Lyell Centre, a joint collaboration with Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh. BGS works with more than 150 private sector organisations, has close links to 40 universities and sponsors about 100 PhD students each year.

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