Scientists working across disciplines will be able to obtain rapid and uncomplicated access to large quality data within Europe in non-bureaucratic manner.
Volcanoes such as Mount Etna in Italy or Eyjafjallajökull on Iceland are rigorously monitored by scientists. Every small change is registered and analysed to come to a better understanding of volcano systems. To this end, volcanologists also make use of infrastructures and data from other scientific disciplines. These include, among others, earthquake measuring stations (seismographs), rock samples, satellite images and GPS (Global Positioning System).
The large amount of data gathered from the different scientific disciplines must be collated.
EPOS: a project for the creation of a uniform infrastructure
The aim of the EPOS project (European Plate Observing System) is to create a uniform, permanent infrastructure for geosciences in Europe. Problems such as those encountered by volcanologists exist in many fields in which scientists work across disciplines and depend on data from other fields. The scientist who collects data himself in the field is a rare species nowadays. In geosciences in particular, investigations are based on a complex structure of sensors distributed over large areas or even all over the world. Earthquake researchers (seismologists) can determine the location and magnitude of an earthquake only with the help of a widely-distributed network of earthquake measuring stations (seismographs).
Infrastructures are therefore a central part of science today – not only among seismologists but also among volcanologists, geodesists, geologists and representatives of other disciplines. The Internet offers the necessary communication infrastructure and in the meantime also permits continuous analyses.
However, one major problem is that the different infrastructures are not accessible to everybody. The data are stored on various platforms and must be laboriously collected for individual research projects.
It is a key challenge of EPOS to combine the infrastructures of the different disciplines, while technical and organisational level research is already overlapping in some areas. For example, volcanologists use the same technology for predicting eruptions as seismologists for recording earthquakes – a combination of different networks therefore creates additional value without extra costs.
However, at present there are only a few platforms which make data available from different infrastructures across disciplines. A link between the disciplines can, if at all, be found only within individual research establishments, but not Europe-wide. An interdisciplinary, international network would help different interest groups (scientists, decision-makers, citizens).
With exactly this in mind, EPOS is designing a platform via which communication can take place and data can be exchanged at European level. Besides purely technical issues, organisational and financial aspects also play an important part.
Click here for the EPOS-Portal.
Text: Frieder Euteneuer