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GEON Cyberinfrastructure Research Highlighted at Three National Meetings

Published 03/01/2004

The GEON Project, which is building a modern cyberinfrastructure for the geosciences, presented well-attended papers and demos at three national meetings. The meetings include the Geological Society of America (GSA) annual meeting in Seattle, Washington November 2 - 5; the annual supercomputing meeting SC2003 in Phoenix, Arizona November 15-21; and the Fall American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco, December 8 - 12.

"There's growing excitement about GEON and what it has to offer the geosciences community," said Chaitan Baru, IT coordinator for GEON and co-director of the Data and Knowledge Systems program at SDSC. "At all three meetings, we were pleased to see increasing interest in GEON and the importance of building cyberinfrastructure." The interest in GEON shows that the time has come for informatics in the geosciences, the researchers believe, and they expect a number of new partnerships to emerge from these meetings, which are advancing cyberinfrastructure and bringing these technologies to the scientific community.

GEON is a multi-institution coalition of information technology (IT) and Earth Science researchers that is collaborating to create a modern information technology framework, or cyberinfrastructure, for the Geosciences. The large five-year NSF Information Technology Research (ITR) project is developing technologies to enable geoscientists to integrate, analyze, model, and visualize today's enormous multidisciplinary 4-D Earth Science data sets. By providing leading-edge data integration and grid computing services to support geosciences research and collaboration on unprecedented scales, GEON will make possible new insights into the complex dynamics of Earth systems.

There was interest in GEON at all three meetings from various geoscience communities, reflecting the strong interdisciplinary nature of GEON. "GSA is the community that GEON started in," said Professor Krishna Sinha of Virginia Tech, who coordinates the geoscience component of GEON. "So of course there was strong interest there, with GEON participants making more than 30 presentations and demos at GSA." Demos included seamlessly integrating distinct data sets on surface rock classification from nine Western states for geologic maps. This research, led by Bertram Ludäscher and Kai Lin of SDSC in collaboration with Boyan Brodaric of the Geological Survey of Canada, highlights issues encountered in merging data sets that come from a variety of sources with different data types and schemas, and it shows the benefits of making unified data available to users, which will vastly speed the process of science and enable scientists to ask questions that span multiple domains. Professor G. Randy Keller, GEON PI from UTEP, co-moderated sessions on Geological and Geophysical Databases: What We Have and What We Need, I and II. "There were more than 30 papers at these sessions, which is twice what we expected," said Keller. "This shows the growing recognition of the importance of building and integrating databases in the geosciences today. " GEON Investigators, students, and partners made 10 of these presentations. Presentation abstracts can be found at and

At the annual supercomputing conference, SC2003, interest was also high, with well-attended demos that featured the architecture of the GEONGrid. Dogan Seber, project manager for GEON, GEON PI, and director of the Geoinformatics Lab at SDSC, presented a Flagship Demo in the SDSC booth that showed the power of networking together data centers and high performance computer centers. In this demonstration of distributed computation, the data resided at SDSC and the computations were run on a supercomputer at GEON partner Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). "This dramatically illustrates the power of cyberinfrastructure," said Seber. "To gather the data and carry out these computations would have been several years of thesis work for a graduate student just five years ago. Now we can do it in five minutes with GEON." The researchers are excited about the possibilities for accelerating the pace of scientific discovery that GEON cyberinfrastructure will bring.

In the fall AGU meeting, the largest of the three meetings with nearly 10,000 attendees, GEON researchers reported interest not only from geoscientists but from related disciplines as well. "GEON cyberinfrastructure has been designed from the beginning so that it can be applied beyond the solid earth geosciences in other fields," said Baru. "While each discipline area has specific needs that must be met, there are many overall issues that can be addressed by this common architecture for shared cyberinfrastructure." Abstracts for GEON presentations at AGU can be found at

GEON Partners

GEON brings together both leading edge IT experts and geoscientists from a range of disciplines in a ground-breaking collaboration. "Initially, it took some time to get up to speed on each other's discipline concepts and terms," said Seber. "Now that we're on the same page, momentum is growing in this large collaboration."

IT research in GEON is coordinated by Data and Knowledge Systems (DAKS) program codirector Baru, and includes researchers from SDSC, Penn State University, and San Diego State University. The geoscience research component of GEON, coordinated by Professor A. Krishna Sinha of Virginia Tech, includes researchers from nine additional universities - Arizona State University, Bryn Mawr College, Rice University, University of Arizona, University of Idaho, University of Missouri, University of Texas, El Paso, University of Utah, and UNAVCO. The Digital Library for Earth Sciences Education (DLESE) is coordinating the GEON education and outreach program, and three other major GEON partners are the DOE Lawrence Livermore National Lab, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC).

For more information about GEON and how to participate please send e-mail to

Related Links

GEON, the Geosciences Network -
Geoinformatics -
Geological Society of America (GSA) -
San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) -
Data and Knowledge Systems (DAKS) program -
GEON Overview Article -