Data Services Newsletter

Volume 16 : No 3 : Winter 2014

Building the EarthCube GeoWS block: data discovery and access across multiple geoscience domains

GeoWS partners
Figure 1: GeoWS partners. They include the 6 funded partners in
yellow, the 8 unfunded partners that IRIS will implement similar web
services for, in blue. The RAMADDA system (orange) will show examples
of how it also can support GeoWS web services. Other Building Block
projects that GeoWS is working with include B-Cube and CINERGY.

The problem scope

It is common knowledge that researchers spend 80% – 90% of their time and effort finding and retrieving data and only 10% – 20% of their time actually using the data to answer science questions. The Geoscience Web Services (GeoWS) EarthCube Building Block will provide more uniform ways to discover, access, and use data from a variety of Earth science data centers. The GeoWS strategy is to promote the use of similar web services as methods of interacting with domain data centers, including solid earth, atmospheric and ocean sciences, that represent the largest sections of the National Science Foundation (NSF) GEO Directorate.

Technical approach

GeoWS services will provide a uniform interface to data by using similarly constructed URLs containing:

  1. a traditional directory structure
  2. standardized query parameters

The base URL for GeoWS compliant services at the IRIS DMC is Specific services and versions can then be accessed at the URL /<service-name>/<service-version>/. An example is the IRIS Event service, version 1 which is accessed at:

This URL can be followed by a series of parameters that provide constraints for the query. For timeseries data-related services this includes a starttime and endtime in the ISO-8601 international standard format. Data is returned in XML format by default, but GeoWS services also support easily understood (“human readable”) plain-text content.


The following URL represents a query resulting in a text listing of all events greater than magnitude 6.0 occurring in the last two months of 2014, ordered by time, using the IRIS Event service:

Other GeoWS partners have similar capabilities and are designed for easy “drop-in” to scripted languages such as Perl or Java, or command-line utilities like curl or wget.

Science Drivers and Governance

GeoWS data partners were selected to address a user scenario within geodynamics, augmented to illustrate that the concept could be extended to other disciplines supported by the NSF GEO Directorate. Two additional partners of GeoWS are have alternative sources of funding:

  • other federal agencies (NGDC)
  • non-US funding sources (WOVOdat)

GeoWS engages the community through a Science Advisory Committee who has many responsibilities, including testing the GeoWS capabilities when fully deployed.

Benefits to Scientists

The burden currently required to discover, access, and use data across multiple scientific domains will be significantly reduced. Additionally, GeoWS is working closely with two other EarthCube Building Block proposals:

GeoWS partners

The table below lists the data centers that comprise the GeoWS partnership.

Additionally GeoWS is directly implementing web services concepts at eight other locations:

Data Center Data Type(s)
National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) Ecological
National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC) Various geophysical
Ocean Observatory Initiative (OOI) Oceanographic
World Organization of Volcano Observatories Database (WOVOdat) Volcanological
Global Geodynamics Project (GGP) Superconducting Gravimeter
InterMagnet Magnetic
Pan American Center for Earth and Environmental Studies (PACES) Gravity and Magnetic
University of Kansas Structural Geology

GeoWS is also supporting the developer of RAMADDA to incorporate GeoWS web services into the RAMADDA system where, in theory, any data collection can be managed.

This project is funded by the National Science Foundation under the EarthCube initiative through grant ICER-1343709.

by Tim Ahern and Rob Newman (IRIS Data Management Center)