INSPIRE Knowledge Base


Assessment and Strategic Development of INSPIRE compliant Geodata-Services for European Soil Data (eContentplus-project)
Mission and Objectives: 
The project GS Soil aims at establishing a European network to improve the access to spatial soil data for public sector bodies, private companies and citizens. The project considers aspects of data organization, data harmonization as well as semantic and technical interoperability in order to produce seamless geospatial information and to improve the data access for a wide community of different user groups. The structural specification for the description and harmonization of spatial soil data within Europe as well as the operation of a corresponding spatial infrastructure are main objectives of GS Soil. The partners will establish and operate a network of services for spatial datasets and metadata. This network includes distributed services for data transformation, discovery, view and download. The final result of the project will be a central Soil Portal, where European soil data from heterogeneous sources will be bundled. In order to ensure cross-border usability of the portal and related services, aspects of multilingualism and data interpretation will be considered thoroughly. In this respect the harmonization of metadata is also a key topic within the project work. The project will extensively support the implementation of the INSPIRE requirements on basis of available experience in selected European countries and regions on different organisational levels. Users will be able to discover, view and download soil data across Europe. The results of the project will be: • A consolidated soil-related theme catalogue and consolidated soil-related theme content-framework standards, • An INSPIRE compatible metadata profile for spatial soil datasets, dataset series and services, • Generic application schemes for soil information, • A web portal (GS Soil Portal) which provides access to all project soil data, including, • a view service which provides access to spatial soil data, • discovery and view of the INSPIRE conform metadata for the provided soil maps, • interoperable spatial soil datasets (for exemplary soil products), • case studies on cross-boarder delivery of harmonised soil data access, • Best practise guidelines for • creating and maintaining metadata for soil database, • and for data harmonisation.
Formal Mandate: 
The project consortium comprises 34 partners from 18 EU member states. Project Coordinator is the coordination center PortalU at the Lower Saxony Ministry of Environment and Climate Protection (Germany). Overall 24 partners out of the consortium are soil data providers and will make the data available for the project. Hence, a complex and high quality data basis in a European context is assured. The focus will be on data provided by national and regional institutions. Beyond that, European institutions are also involved via the advisory board. (1) Coordination Center PortalU at the Lower Saxony Ministry of Environment and Climate Protection (2) Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (3) con terra GmbH (4) Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research (5) wemove digital solutions GmbH (6) Federal Research and Training Center for Forest, Natural hazards and Landscape (7) Umweltbundesamt GmbH (8) Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (9) Paris Lodron University of Salzburg (10) Vlaamse Overheid (11) Infologica Ltd. (12) Institute of Soil Science Nikola Poushkarov (13) Czech Environmental Information Agency (14) Masaryk University (15) University of Aarhus (16) Spanish National Research Council (17) MTT Agrifood Research Finland (18) Alsace Region (19) Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (20) Institute of Geology and Mineral Exploration (21) National Agricultural Research Foundation (22) Central Agricultural Office (23) Research Institute for Soil Science and Agricultural Chemistry of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (24) Szent Istvan University (25) University of Miskolc, Dept. of Physical Geography and Environmental Sciences (26) Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority (27) Warsaw University of Technology (28) EDISOFT s. a. (29) National Institute for Biological Recourses (30) National Research and Development, Institute for Soil Science Agricultural Chemistry and Environment (31) Soil Science and Conservation Research Institute (32) Agricultural Institute of Slovenia (33) Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute (34) Macaulay Land Use Research Institute
In order to achieve the aims of the project, GS Soil is structured in seven work packages (WPs): • WP1 for project coordination and networking, • WP2 for building up the content provision framework, • WP3 with focus on metadata, • WP4 with focus on harmonisation and semantic interoperability, • WP5 for establishing of an integrated network and a soil portal, • WP6 for evaluation and sustainability • and WP7 with focus on dissemination, awareness and clustering activities with other projects. WP2 to 4 will set up on each other. The soil and soil related data will be analysed, necessary metadata will be identified and provided and specific datasets will be systematically harmonised. The improved access to soil information by the GS Soil Portal is the main objective of WP5, while WP6 focuses on user needs and the long-term perspective of the GS Soil Portal. At the beginning of the project specific and generic requirements for soil information, services and products have to be identified by a range of user communities and stakeholders. This requirement analysis will result in a soil inventory and theme catalogue, which documents the current state and ability of data providers to meet the goal of data harmonization. Based on this, specific content requirements and characteristics will be defined as fundament for the establishment of harmonized soil data sets. As a fundament for harmonizing different kinds of soil data, basic information about the data sets have to be made available in the form of methodical metadata, which describe the underlying data models in depth, and which comply with a generic framework for developing application schemata for the relevant data. Therefore a schema for describing spatially linked soil data and database services to comply with the INSPIRE Directive will be developed, which meet the needs of data users for a harmonised, interoperable EU-wide, national and regional soil data infrastructure. A soil oriented metadata structure profile will be developed following the INSPIRE IR for metadata, other international, and national standards, like the ISO 19115:2003, and the needs of the data users. In the context of data harmonization a framework will be developed that enables existing soil datasets to be linked up from one country to another. Therefore data specifications will be developed and made available as basis for designing and testing of transformations or translations. The level of spatial data consistency depends to a large proportion on user level harmonization efforts. Such efforts will be thoroughly analysed in order to identify, to which degree pre-harmonization is needed and how it can be implemented. However, particular focus will be given to the development of user level transformation services in the context of the INSPIRE harmonization framework. Exemplary services will be developed with the objective to present comparable and meaningful data portrayal. The focus on soil map legends and soil inventory data is important because attribute and property data are crucial for developing evaluation and transformation services. The results will enter in a best practice guideline for soil data specification development under INSPIRE.
Various best practice networks have been recently launched, in support of INSPIRE, but also within GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security). Close contact will be established to them, in particular to OneGeology-Europe and Nature-SDIplus. Project partners also participates in important European projects with focus on geodata harmonisation and service integration such as the Humboldt project (Towards the Harmonisation of Spatial Information in Europe), but also the Orchestra project (Open Service Architecture for Risk Management). This capacity and strengths of GS Soil members will allow monitoring of the current developments of the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), such as on WMS embedded secure features. Feedback to and from the ISO working group developing a soil data exchange standard is an important requirement to support methodologies which attempt to make heterogeneous soil data accessible to a broad user community. GS Soil will also link to activities supporting GEOSS (Global Earth Observation System of the Systems), e.g. with the dissemination component of the FP7 project e-SOTER (Regional Pilot Platform as EU Contribution to a Global Soil Observing System). GS Soil for the first time closely brings together IT experts with the soil mapping, soil inventory and monitoring community. Therefore, the project will generate significant progresses in using modern web-based technology to improve the availability of soil data in Europe. The technical working groups of the Soil Thematic Strategy have concluded that a tremendous need for harmonised soil information in various environmental policy frameworks in Europe exists. Best practice means to GS Soil, that a representative group of experts develops user-friendly guidance to understand and apply technical specifications to soil data management in a distributed web environment. It is envisaged that GS Soil will provide basic concepts for developing the decentralised but integrated web-enabled environmental information system SEIS. Due to the involvement of GS Soil partners to all specific activities presented in the figure above, optimal condition exists to reach the objectives of the project. For example, members of INSPIRE Drafting Teams (DT) participate in GS Soil (DT Metadata: KST PortalU and Conterra, DT Data Specifications: BGR). The core network is composed of members of the European Soil Bureau Network (ESBN). On that basis, it will also be possible to consider the full range of soil related aspects. In addition, several partners participate in Spatial Data Interest Communities (SDIC), others are representatives for Legal Mandatory Organisations (LMO).
The project is co-funded by the European Community programme eContentplus with 4.1 M €. It is a programme from the European Commission DG Information Society and Media with the objective to make digital content in Europe more accessible, usable and exploitable (DG Information Society and Media 2008). GS Soil is thereby allocated to the area of geographic information, where the focus is set on the aggregation of existing national datasets into cross border datasets, which will serve to underpin new information services and products, in particular with a view to reducing barriers related to one or more of the specific themes mentioned in annexes I-III of the INSPIRE Directive. The focus of GS Soil is thereby set on soil and soil related data. In the eContentplus programme, GS SOIL is defined as a Best Practice Network for Geographic Information. The project duration is from June 2009 until May 2012.

Which role(s) do you foresee for the SDIC in INSPIRE development

  • submit reference material as input to the Drafting Teams
  • yes
  • allocate experts to Drafting Teams
  • yes
  • collect and describe user requirements related to Environmental policies
  • yes
  • register a project to test/revise/develop the draft Implementing Rules
  • yes
  • contribute to awareness raising and training
  • yes
  • be kept informed
  • yes
    Geographic Domain
    18 European member states
    Societal Sector
    national government, regional authorities, private sector, research institutions
    Specific Expertise
    Previous Experience relevant for INSPIRE development
    Members of DT Metadata: KST PortalU, conterra Members of DT Data Specifications: BGR Participation of partners in different INSPIRE relevant projects as e.g. OneGeology-Europe, Nature-SDIplus, Humboldt, Orchestra, e-Soter etc. Also OGC members are involved in the project.
    Primary Business
    IT, Soil Science, Environmental Science