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In 2012, Professor John Woodhouse at Earth Sciences at Oxford introduced a big data problem to Professor Min Chen at the Oxford e-Research Centre (OeRC). During Professor Chen's first visit to the International Seismological Centre (ISC) at Thatcham, Dr. Dmitry Storchak, the ISC Director, explained "The volume of seismological data has been increasing rapidly, largely due to the increasing numbers of sensors installed around the world and the higher data capabilities of new sensors. Despite the recent data explosion, the revenue of the ISC does not scale up at the same rate. It is hence not feasible to solve the data explosion problem by simply employing more data analysts."


What did the project do?

The Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between the Centre and the ISC implemented a new technically-advanced system for quality assurance of large volumes of seismological bulletin data. Previously the earthquake data collected by the ISC, which is used in preparing and distributing The ISC Bulletin, the definitive summary of world seismicity, was paper-based and took highly trained data analysts’ significant time to scan, correct, annotate and manually enter into a bespoke computer interface. Using the ‘Visual Bulletin Analysis System’ (VBAS), a new more efficient working practice was developed, integrating visualization, analysis and interaction of the data in a visual analytics framework.

Who did the project reach?

Bulletin data produced by the ISC are used by thousands of seismologists worldwide to estimate seismic hazards and in tectonic studies. By embedding a KTP associate into the team of data analysts at the ISC, real-time requirements were gathered enabling a system to be built which both reduces the data intensive work of the ISC team and enables crucial data to be analysed more efficiently, aiding seismologists in processing earthquake data. In addition, the new system should prove beneficial in training, recruiting and retaining ISC staff, by replacing the laborious paper-based process with a visualization-assisted approach, which enables a more cost effective workflow for large scale data analysis.

What was the impact of the project?

The VBAS has shown to significantly increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the analysis of large volumes of seismological bulletin data. When rolled out to the whole team at ISC, the system will significantly speed up the process of delivering crucial data to experts worldwide who are tasked with monitoring seismological hazards. Statistical analysis of the performance data over the next 12 months will now be monitored by the ISC.

"As a result of works under the KTP we expect an improvement in timeliness and quality of the ISC Bulletin and associated products. Without this project, we would have expected a decline in demand because of increased delay between seismic event occurrence and bulletin publication."

Dr. Dmitry A. Storchak, the ISC Director

Find out more about the Visual Bulletin Analysis System along with OeRC's other Knowledge Transfer Partnerships here

Project Team

Dr. Hui Fang, KTP Associate (now at Edge Hill University as a lecturer)
Dr. Saiful Khan, Research Officer (now employed by ISC as a software engineer)
Dr. Dmitry A. Storchak (ISC, Chair of the Local Management Committee)
Professor Min Chen (Oxford e-Research Centre, Lead Academic & Academic Supervisor)
James Harris (ISC, KTP Facilitator)
Dr. Emily Delahaye (ISC, Company Supervisor)
Dr. Simon Walton (Oxford e-Research Centre, Academic Support)