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Editor's comment: Sharing is caring

In the age of the digital environment and the internet, sharing data ought to be easy and becoming second nature, shouldn’t it? 

Claire Smith

Claire Smith is editor of GE

Analysis of a larger pool of data has the potential to reduce risk and avoid duplication of efforts that could improve efficiency and provide better value for clients. Yet despite these benefits data is not being shared and, worse still, if it is then once digital documents are being reproduced in PDF or paper format.

Analysis of big data has revolutionised the finance, retail and insurance sectors – so when will the geotechnical sector undergo the same step change? The answer is: it could be right now – or it could still be years away as the data exists but there still seems to be real reluctance to share it.

GE was recently commissioned to research the use of digital data in the ground engineering industry and some of the insights gained through that process are shared in this issue. One message that came through in the interviews and survey that formed the research was that sharing data is the biggest factor holding back this industry’s evolution.

GCG’s Jackie Skipper also called for greater sharing of data – particularly of images to aid identification of geological strata – during her Glossop Lecture in November which focused on unexpected ground conditions. Skipper also urged contractors to feed back more data about the actual ground conditions found during construction, to help build geological knowledge.

Many argue that such data holds a competitive advantage for their business but without sharing, the competitive advantage for the industry as a whole is being lost.

The British Geological Survey’s borehole records do present an existing system to share ground investigation data but the organisation reports that fewer companies are depositing information with them. Bristol University is working on a database for sharing piling load test data and Skipper suggested that images from ground

investigations should also be shared on a national database.

It is clear the benefits of data sharing are widely acknowledged but the desire to actually share is lacking – what will it take for you to remove the barriers that prevent geotechnics from having its digital revolution?

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