OpenGeoscience is a free online service provided by the British Geological Survey, part of the Natural Environment Research Council; the UK's main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. The British Geological Survey was founded in 1835, and is the world's oldest national geological survey. OpenGeoscience aims to increase access to the British Geological Society's large range of datasets by publishing them online at no charge for non-commercial private study, research and educational purposes.

The OpenGeoscience service became available online in 2009; before that the data was only available in paper form or via a subscription service to universities. There are viewable maps, photos, scans, mobile apps and downloadable data. Dubbed 'Google Rock' by a Senior Lecturer at the Open University, Professor Paul Smith of Birmingham University said the project would transform the way geosciences are taught in universities.

OpenGeoScience encourages the use and re-use of the data provided, which is available under the Open Government Licence. This licence allows anyone to share the information, copy it or adapt it, with the proviso that the source of the information must be acknowledged with an attribution statement and, if possible, a link to the Open Government Licence. Users must not use the information in an inaccurate way, or falsify any of the data, and it is forbidden to use the information in a way that suggests official status.

Maps and map data viewers

Simple map viewers are available to open individually or together in the map viewers portfolio. The Geology of Britain viewer lets you click an area of interest and pan or zoom, and is also available as a WMS. The viewer includes a free search of the NGDC collection of borehole scans, 3D models allowing viewing of cross-sections in selected areas of the UK, and an earthquake timeline. The Offshore and Onshore GeoIndex maps datasets such as seabed samples, hydrocarbon wells, boreholes and geochemistry. There is a Groundwater Levels Timeline Viewer from 1970 to the present, a Hydrogeology Viewer displaying aquifer potential at regional or national level, and London Earth; a soil geochemistry viewer with interactive maps covering Greater London.

Click here to find London based open source software developers.

Data downloads

Designed to be downloaded and worked offline, there are six datasets of the British Geological Society's baseline products. The National Bedrock Fence Diagram is a GB3D geological model using digital cross-sections of Great Britain. UK geology data is provided in ESRI and MapInfo GIS format, showing superficial layers, faults, bedrock and linear features. Similar UK geology data is delivered in KML allowing Google Earth and Google Maps visualization. Hydro geological data is delivered in ESRI and MapInfo GIS format, gravity and magnetic field data is available in CSV format, and chemical data showing the location of environmental data samples, including samples from the GBASE project, is delivered in KML.

Data Collections

Much of BGS' archives and data collections have been put on databases and indexed, allowing online searching and viewing. There are seven online databases, and four vocabularies. The databases include Rock Collections, Taxonomy Online, PalaeoSaurus, Groundwater Level Information, Geomagnetic Data, Borehole Materials and a GeoIndex, which is a map-based index to datasets collected.

Scans and Photos

Numerous digital image collections have been released on OpenGeoscience. GeoScenic displays around 50,000 images from the National Archive of Geological Photographs. Historical maps from between 1835 and 1905 have been scanned, and hydrogeology maps, Irish historical geological maps, scanned magnetograms and petrological thin section images are all online.

Mobile apps

There are five websites that are optimised for mobile phones, supporting iOS 3+, Android 2.2+ and Blackberry 6+. There are three smartphone apps: iGeology for iPhone/iPad and Android, downloadable from iTunes or Google Play; iGeology 3D for Android which can be downloaded from Google Play, and mySoil, for iPhone/iPad which can be downloaded from iTunes. A free mobile app, Citizen Science, lets members of the public record earthquakes, flooding, landslides and other information.

Web Services

Geological data is available in open formats to enable Geobrowsers such as Google Earth and GIS software to be used. There are GeoRSS feeds, with location information embedded in them, interactive geology or earthquakes maps that can be included in other websites, and KML maps and Web Map Services (WMS) that are viewable in GIS software such as ESRI's ArcGIS.

OpenGeoscience Data Models

Started in June 2011, OpenGeoscience Data Models is a two-year knowledge exchange project providing ready-to-use, open database designs and documentation. The intention is to build a self-sustaining community to develop the designs and alter them to suit different requirements.

All OpenGeoscience information is freely available at