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The challenge

Accessing and processing geophysical data

Accessing and processing geophysical data can be a complex and time consuming task. Apart from the sheer volume of data, the different systems collecting data use different conventions, formats and file types. In order to access this data, researchers may need to learn to use a number of systems. This means a lot of research time is taken up just processing the data.

Our response

A cloud-based 'laboratory'

In collaboration with Geoscience Australia and the National Computational Infrastructure, we developed a flexible and accessible 'virtual laboratory' that allows geophysicists to easily access and quickly process earth science data from many sources.

The cloud-based Virtual Geophysics Laboratory (VGL) is a workflow portal that provides access to data and observations from state and territory geological surveys and other sources through a mapping interface (similar to Google Maps). The VGL:

  • provides easy access to new data and computational resources
  • fully uses the data
  • enables reuse of that data for different purposes.

With the VGL users are able to streamline processes, access geoscience datasets online much more readily and use that data to solve problems.

The research and development was funded by the Federal Government’s Education Investment Funds through NeCTAR.

Virtual Geophysics Laboratory interface.

The results

Easier, faster data processing

Prior to the VGL, three or four software packages were needed to carry out geophysical modelling activities, which would take about one week to complete. With the VGL, similar modelling can now be completed in hours.


One of the VGL's other main features is transparency. An audit trail provides a detailed record that includes information on users and their organisations together with copyright policy, timing and details of the datasets run and infrastructure used. This record allows users to test results and make changes if required, such as trialling or comparing new algorithms.

Wider applications

There has been a great amount of interest in the VGL beyond the geoscience community. With its flexible design, the VGL could be used for other purposes, such as a natural hazards laboratory. In this example, rainfall data could be the basis for a study of inundation patterns and processing could deliver flood assessments or modelling.


The VGL was developed in collaboration with Geoscience Australia, Monash University, the Australian National University, the University of Queensland and the National Computational Infrastructure, and is funded by the National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources (Nectar) project.

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