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Historical and duplicate data continue to impede exploration data management

by Virginia Heffernan on August 5, 2015 library

Geosoft survey identifies ongoing challenges with respect to handling historical and duplicate data and collaborating on projects.
Download the survey →

Though exploration data quality is improving, organizations continue to grapple with historical and duplicate information, collaboration in real time and the cost and complexity of data management solutions.
These are among the findings of Geosoft’s 2015 Exploration Information Management Survey, a much broader version of a similar survey completed in 2013. This year’s survey report incorporates more opinion from different industries and government segments, and a stronger representation from geologists and GIS specialists.    

Geosoft received 1980 responses from 1328 organizations in 115 countries. About 60% of the respondents hail from the mineral resources industry and 12% from the energy sector. The remainder represent government, education, and the environmental and UXO sectors.

The majority of respondents, regardless of their role or organization, ranked data management as a critical (48%) or top five issue (37%) for their exploration group. The full 2015 Survey Report is downloadable from the Geosoft website.  

Here are some key observations:

Data management differs across organizations
Governments and education organizations rely heavily on their geoscientists to manage their own project data. By contrast, companies tend to use a file/folder structure on a centralized server.

Overall, 41% of respondents cited using a centralized server for drillhole and geological data and 52% use a server for geophysical and other geoscientific data.

The organizations that use commercially available solutions had higher responses from data managers, suggesting those who invest in commercial solutions also invest in the personnel to run them.

Based on comments from respondents, many use a combination of approaches. Drillhole data management, especially, is highly fragmented involving multiple commercial and in-house solutions.

Historical data a major challenge
The majority of respondents (68%) report challenges managing historical data and 26% rank the amount that is unmanaged or disorganized as their biggest data management issue, compared to 24% who rank finding data with search tools highest and 17% who consider dependency on knowledge experts to be their biggest concern.

The time and resources needed to manage historical data stands out as the largest obstacle for 28% of the respondents, represented mostly by the mineral resources industry and government.  The environmental and UXO sectors rank locating and accessing this type of data as the number one challenge. Only 17% of all the respondents feel highly confident that their geoscientists can access historical data.

Collaboration emerging as important theme
For the 2015 survey, Geosoft asked respondents to rank the challenges associated with collaborating on active projects with consultants, contractors, and team members. Uncertainty about whether they had the most current and best quality version of the data emerged as the top concern for 35% of the respondents, while access to datasets in real time was the biggest challenge for another 30%. Several respondents noted that interoperability (sharing datasets between technologies) is a greater issue than security (controlling who sees those datasets).

Quality better, duplication not
Compared to 2013, there is an increase in confidence related to both the quality and quantity of the data being managed. However, concerns about data duplication linger, with only 12% of respondents reporting being highly confident that they have a handle on this issue.

Managing data takes too much time
Regardless of whether respondents spent more than 12 hours per week on data management (15%), less than four hours (20%) or some time in between, 43% consider the time spent by geoscientists on this task to be too high.  For those who identify as exploration managers, executives, managers and owners, that portion reaches 50%.

Almost a quarter of the respondents don’t know how much time their geoscientists spend on data management, while 20% think more time should be spent.

Cost and complexity remain obstacles
About half of the respondents rank either the resources required to implement a solution or the cost of maintaining it as their number one obstacle to improving data management. A third of the respondents consider the complexity of integrating existing data silos to be the biggest concern.

Opinions on how best to address data management differ. Some (29%) identify access to a commercially available solution implemented in-house as the best approach while 25% prefer a cloud-based commercial solution. Another 28% – higher among government organizations – are keen to develop their own in-house solutions.

Best outcomes are discovery and transparency
The most important outcome mineral resources industry respondents would expect from resolving their data management issues is an improved discovery rate. For government and energy organizations, increasing visibility and transparency for reporting and attracting investors rank as more important. About 25% of respondents rank savings as the key outcome.

Organizations are becoming more confident about the quality of their data, but concerns remain about accessing and handling historical and duplicate data, and collaborating with others for the best results. Although almost half lament the time it takes to manage their data, the cost and perceived complexity of implementing a solution are dissuading some from taking further action.

The majority of respondents would prefer a commercial solution to their data management challenges, whether that be in-house or cloud-based. In return, they would expect higher discovery rates, improved transparency and lower costs.

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