June 22-24, 1998

The main goal of the Data Model Working Group was to propose a comprehensive, flexible data model that can be used by all participants in the National Geologic Map Database (and the geologic community in general) to create, manage, and disseminate digital geologic maps. Under the chairmanship of Gary Raines, the Working Group began discussions in late 1996. Since then, numerous public presentations have been given, within the USGS and at more public venues (e.g., the GSA annual meeting, 1997). Last October a draft report and conceptual data model were made available on the Web for public comment. At a workshop in Denver, June 22-24, 1998, we conducted the first review of the model; the general purpose was to introduce the strawman model and prototype software tools to a group of digital mapping experts, and ask for their help in evaluating and further developing the model.

The workshop was attended by 28 members of the USGS (from the NCGM and MR programs, the EROS Data Center, the CG's staff, and the publications groups), State geological surveys, and the Federal and Provincial surveys of Canada; attendees included senior field geologists, GIS experts, and information managers. An overview of the conceptual model and software tools was followed by a hands-on session and facilitated discussion. Throughout, the importance of discussion and consensus-building was emphasized because the process of developing this standard must be an open, inclusive one -- a standard isn't a standard unless it is widely used.

A significant accomplishment of the workshop was to foster wider USGS participation in the development of the data model. Workshop attendees agreed to move the effort forward by testing the model and by working to align their own model activities with the developing national standard. A plan was developed to organize regional technical working groups and to build a web-conferencing site ("")to facilitate and organize continued discussion and exchange of information as the testing goes on over the coming months.

The attendees were provided with introductions to the data model and software tools and given an afternoon to evaluate them, using geologic maps of their choosing. In a faciliated discussion, they were then asked to evaluate the effort, guided by the following three questions.


Is the data model effort headed in the right direction? This question elicited the most spirited discussion, as a number of attendees felt that they needed additional time to evaluate and test the model prior to giving a thoughtful answer to the question. The majority of those who spoke to this question felt comfortable in asserting that there should be a standard data model and that the Working Group's efforts had yielded a promising draft model. Most members of the group were prepared to embark on a period of technical evaluation and to work on improving the data model.

It was noted that the Data Model Working Group had in 1996 been charged by the AASG and USGS to evaluate other models and to use the knowledge gained to develop a draft model for the U.S. and Canadian geologic communities. There was agreement that this workshop marks only the beginning of a larger commitment over a span of months to refine the model and to develop the software tools needed to provide users with a data-input and analytical interface to the model. Most attendees agreed to participate in a detailed evaluation during the coming months and to use the existing data model as the starting point. Clearly, the model must be capable of evolving as the needs of the community change. The development effort will be an open process, and suggested refinements will be addressed.

The proposed model represents a "wiring diagram" that describes the organization of map data in computer files. It was recognized that a serious effort must now be directed toward deciding on standard terminology that will help make the model more useful (for example, a standard terminology for describing rock types). An important aspect of deciding on standard terminology will be to determine the "cutoff point", or the level of standardization that is needed, below which more detailed standards are only appropriate for local mapping projects. The process of identifying the key personnel to help develop the terminology has begun.

ACTION ITEM 1 -- Specific concerns expressed by the attendees will be addressed in the next version of the model and tools (e.g., changes to specific data tables); the deadline for expression of these concerns and suggestions was July 15. This short deadline was set in order to quickly refine the prototype tools, which are needed to evaluate the model.


Are the software tools also headed in the right direction? There was less consensus on this question, and less need for consensus --the tools serve as the interface to the model and, therefore, are more subject to personal design preferences. For example, attendees expressed different preferences for spreadsheet vs. forms-based software. It was, however, generally agreed that the tools were essential for the model's evaluation and that additional tool development is needed in order to more fully evaluate the model and how it can be implemented within a Team, Program, or a Geological Survey.

ACTION ITEM 2 -- During the model evaluation phase, the Geologic Mapping Program will continue to fund development of prototype tools. Additional funding will be requested from other programs and from the Division (see above).


What should happen next? This discussion was prefaced with an overview of the proposed timeline: A) following the workshop, a period of voluntary, on-site evaluation in various State geological surveys, GD programs, and Canadian survey will begin (this process may extend for 6 months or more); B) during that time, the model and software tools will be revised as recommended by evaluators; C) a discussion of the revised model will take place at a workshop or other appropriate venue; D) when appropriate after formal USGS and AASG review of the data model report, the model will be submitted to FGDC for consideration as a draft Federal standard (supported by the prototype software); and E) as soon as practical, members of the Data Model Working Group will seek support from Geologic Division programs and management to contract with a vendor to supply high-quality software for users of the model.

There was considerable discussion about "what to do next" and the details of the on-site evaluation. There were many good suggestions for improving communication among model developers and users, and these are being incorporated into the action items. It is also apparent that there is a need to move the data model project from an initial development mode to a project level that will allow wider participation. A multi-program project proposal is being developed and will be discussed with the Division Science Council (see above).

ACTION ITEM 3 -- The Data Model Working Group is open to new members, and we expect that some current members may find it necessary to attend to other commitments. Workshop attendees and other interested people are encouraged to discuss with Dave Soller and Gary Raines the possibility of joining the Working Group and to seek the approval of their supervisors and Chief Scientists.

ACTION ITEM 4 -- Develop a Web-conferencing site to facilitate discussion and revisions to the model. This web site has been developed (see ""). The Division could increase the visibility of this Web site by stating the importance of the activity.

ACTION ITEM 5 -- In addition to the use of a consistent set of database fields, the model will require that consistent geologic terminology be used for some (but not all) fields (for example, lithologic descriptions). Consistent terminology must be developed by subject-matter experts. The Working Group will coordinate the development of appropriate lexicons for this purpose. Experts should be drawn from the Geologic Division's scientific programs, the State geological surveys, and from foreign surveys. Assistance from management is needed, to help promote the importance of serving as experts in support of this effort.

ACTION ITEM 6 -- The prototype tools were not designed to be sufficient for the needs of all data producers. Because a more robust set of tools most likely will be needed, the Working Group has begun planning for this; we suggest that contract software development may be the most appropriate mechanism to obtain tools. Management assistance will be needed to help plan for the procurement of needed funds and other resources.


Brian Berdusco (Ontario Geological Survey)
Dan Carey (Kentucky Geological Survey)
Pam Derkey (USGS, MRSP)
Todd Fitzgibbon (USGS, NCGMP)
Mike Foose (USGS, MRSP)
John Glynn (Geological Survey of Canada)
Greg Green (USGS, MRSP)
Ralph Haugerud (USGS, NCGMP)
Steve Kennedy (USGS, NCGMP)
Bill Larson (USGS, ERSP)
Steve Ludington (USGS, MRSP)
Jim Mathews (USGS, OPS)
Jon Matti (USGS, NCGMP)
Scott McColloch (West Virginia Geological Survey)
Jim McDonald (Ohio Geological Survey)
Doug Morton (USGS, NCGMP)
Dan Nelson (Illinois State Geological Survey)
Steve Richard (Arizona Geological Survey)
Steve Schindler (USGS, NCGMP)
Randy Schumann (USGS, GCCHP)
Peter Schweitzer (USGS, OCG)
Nancy Shock (USGS, CPG)
Doug Stoeser (USGS, MRSP)
John Sutter (USGS, NCGMP)
Charlie Trautwein (USGS, EDC)
Greg Walsh (USGS, NCGMP)
Van Williams (USGS, NCGMP)
Ric Wilson (USGS, MRSP)


Boyan Brodaric (Geological Survey of Canada)
Jordan Hastings (Unversity of Nevada, Reno)
Bruce Johnson (USGS, MRSP)
Gary Raines (USGS, MRSP)
David Soller (USGS, NCGMP)
Ron Wahl (USGS, NCGMP)

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last update: Mar. 15, 1999