TILES is embedded in a broad range of international activities and initiatives concerning standardization and harmonization of geological data and information, development of a geo-data infrastructure, geological modelling, resource management and seabed-habitat mapping. Many of the associated projects aim to contribute to and comply with strategic visions on long-term science requirements and community needs (www.earthscienceeurope.org).
For any international geological project, data standardization and harmonization is a necessary first step. The partnership invested in this important subject by playing an active role in several geo-data programmes and (e-)infrastructures. Under the umbrella of EuroGeoSurveys (EGS), RBINS and TNO are active in OneGeology-Europe, and in the EU-FP7 projects EuroGeoSource (geo-energy and mineral resource data), Geo-Seas (marine geological and geophysical data) and ODIP (similar to Geo-Seas, but jointly with partners from the USA and Australia). TNO is coordinating EGDI-Scope, a scoping study for a pan-European geological data infrastructure that covers land and sea areas, and is promoting 3D geological modelling throughout Europe. All of these projects are aligned with European directives. Several have links with global and European Earth-observation programmes such as GEOSS (Global Earth Observation System of Systems), Copernicus (European Earth observation programme, previously known as GMES or Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) and EMODNet (DG-MARE, European Marine Observation and Data Network with a.o. lots on Hydrography, Geology, Habitats) and all are contributing to INSPIRE (Infrastructure for spatial information in the European Community).
On a data-interpretation level, much progress has been made in EMODNet-Geology. As an example RBINS and TNO developed a first set of transnational high-resolution multi-parameter seabed maps, promoting flexible querying and visualization of grain-size-distribution data (Van Lancker & Van Heteren 2013b). In the new phase of EMODNet (2013-2017), emphasis will be not only on the seabed but also on the upper tens of meters of the subsurface. Information and knowledge on Quaternary deposits and evolution will be visualized on a 1:250,000 scale in a transnational context, stimulating cross-fertilisation with the TILES project. EMODNet-Geology will be a use-case of EGDI-Scope, providing the marine element of the intended data infrastructure. Within EMODNet-Geology, a working group on North Sea research, established between Germany (BSH, BGR), the Netherlands (TNO), Denmark (GEUS) and Belgium (RBINS) actively exchanges grain-size data and knowledge with applications towards habitats, and seabed morphodynamics.
Non-energy resources are an increasingly important research priority and challenge in Earth Science, as recognized in the EU’s Raw Materials Initiative. A sustainable exploitation of these resources will require a transnational approach that uses data, information and knowledge across borders and across land-sea transitions to feed decision support systems that are embedded in national and international law. To this end, TNO and RBINS are active in EMSAGG, the European Marine Sand and Gravel Group, an independent body that brings together national and EU stakeholders from across industry, regulators and policy makers, interest groups, planners, economists, and research bodies. Furthermore, RBINS is responsible for the implementation of the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). TILES research will be directly relevant to MSFD Descriptors 6 (seafloor integrity) and 7 (hydrographic conditions). Related to descriptor 6, sediment attributes directly link to habitats. As part of Geo-Seas, RBINS and TNO produced a joint report on standardization and harmonization of seabed habitat mapping, an important valorisation product of geological seabed data. Within a broader, interdisciplinary context, TILES will contribute to second phase (2013-2017) of the EMODNet Lot Physical Habitats that will build on EMODNet-Geology.
TILES will put the partnership in a position in which initiatives can be developed and joined for new international collaboration. Anticipating on strategic priorities flagged within EGDI-Scope, EuroGeoSurveys promotes the establishment of a ‘European Geological Service’, a need expressed in the report ‘On an effective raw materials strategy for Europe’ of the European Parliament Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. In the proposed resource initiative Minerals4EU, primary non-energy resource and associated resource flows (including re-use) is addressed. Furthermore, TILES directly adds value and innovation to seabed mapping, one of the strategic research priorities put forward within the EU-FP7 ERA-NET Scheme SEAS-ERA, a partnership of the leading Marine RTD Funding Organizations. Their Marine Research Plan for the European Atlantic Sea Basin fed into JPI-Oceans on Healthy and Productive Seas and Oceans, subsequently contributing to the ‘Blue Growth Strategy’ of the European Commission. Within the EU Horizon 2020 strategy (2014-2020), projects dealing with the sustainable balance between human needs and the environment are prioritized, acknowledging that resources are being over-exploited and ecosystems degraded beyond nature's ability to regenerate them (Horizon 2020, Annex I, 5.2.1). Finally, the development of the 4D resource DSS and more specifically the handling of imperfect information (UG-DDCM) fit within the scope of the European Eusflat Working group on Soft Computing in Database Management and Information Retrieval. Furthermore, UG-DDCM has excellent cooperation with the department of Computer Science of San Francisco State University, specialized in suitability mapping and open to support the TILES research. New opportunities for international cooperation in the fields of decision support and soft computing will arise.