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Managing exploration data takes centre stage

by Virginia Heffernan on November 5, 2013 library

Exploration Information Management Survey

Download the survey →

Over the past two years, data management has become a pressing concern in the exploration community. According to a global survey report released by Geosoft, managing exploration data is now of “critical importance” for 44% of respondents, up from 18% two years ago.

The 2013 Exploration Information Management Survey cast a wider net than a similar survey in 2011, incorporating more roles and organizations in different industries and government segments. Geosoft received almost 700 responses from 415 organizations around the globe. More than 60% were from the mineral resources industry, with the remainder spread among energy (11%), government (9%), educational organizations (5%), and other sectors. The full 2013 survey is downloadable from

Every day we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data — so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. -IBM, “Big Data Success Stories”

Here are some key observations:

The data challenge is growing
According to IBM research about 90% of the data in the world has been created in the past two years. It’s not surprising explorers are feeling overwhelmed. Data management has moved from being a significant issue for most organizations in the 2011 survey to being of “critical” importance for the majority.

Explorers are responding by reining in data Organizations are shifting data out of the hands of individuals in to centralized managed environments. Forty per cent of respondents now manage their drillhole and geological data on a central server with a folder or file structure, while even more (51%) manage geophysical and other survey data that way. Two years ago, a third of the geoscientists surveyed managed their data individually.

Combined with a strong impetus to acquire a single commercially available platform (36%) or build an in-house solution to data management challenges (28%), the move to centralize suggests groups want tighter control over their exploration data and a more efficient workflow. By contrast, only 3% would prefer to outsource their data management.

Cost and complexity remain obstacles
About a third of the respondents (and an even greater percentage in larger companies) reported that their biggest challenge is locating data using integrated search tools. Almost as many listed the complication of workflows or their dependency on knowledge experts as the biggest stumbling block.

Although they feel confident about the quantity and integrity of the data, a large number (47%) were concerned about data duplication, suggesting organizations are struggling with the cost and complexity of managing multiple versions of their data.

Indeed, when asked about the most pressing concern when it comes to maintaining a data management solution, 47% said cost and effort. Lack of expertise in maintaining the system was considered more important by about one-third, while only 8% cited turnover and attrition risks.

Organizations expect better visibility and  more discoveries
Almost 40% of the respondents were most concerned about their ability to attract investors and improve their reporting as a result of the increased transparency and visibility an effective data management system would allow. Another 25% were primarily concerned with improving discovery rates. Few (7%) considered a quick return on investment to be the most important outcome.

There is a growing need for effective data management in the exploration community in order to attract investors and improve discovery rates. Although organizations are getting better at centralizing their data on a single platform, more work needs to be done to increase data accessibility, reduce duplication, smooth workflows, and lessen dependency on experts.

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