Soil Data Working Group now launched

A new working group on soil data, in cooperation with the Research Data Alliance and the Global Soil Partnership has now been launched. The working group was initially conceptualized during GODAN Summit 2016, responding to a large interest from inside and outside the GODAN community of practitioners and stakeholders.

Open soil data is becoming increasingly available using web services and conventional data download. However, the data from multiple sources is poorly harmonized and is not yet interoperable. Difficulties in discovery and searching according to topic, coverage or spatial focus, make it hard for users to sort and select the information needed.

Thus, interoperable open soil data is still difficult to find and use, especially for critical land areas, policy topics and specific stakeholder needs. In addition, high resolution data on soil nutrient content and land use potential and hazards of soils is urgently needed for a wide variety of purposes in agriculture and environmental policies:

  • Planning of sustainable soil development and management
  • Studying the effects of climate change on soil fertility and ecosystem services
  • Assessment of land degradation
  • Soil-related Indicators for Sustainable Development Goals (2.4, 15.2, 15.3)


As the guiding principle, this working group, will promote the development and exchange of standardized and interoperable open soil data, especially the exchange of key soil data for transdisciplinary applications based on user needs (e.g. use cases including modelling, monitoring, forecasts).

The Global Soil Partnership has identified that many countries, including developed ones, have training needs for implementing and sharing interoperable soil data through web services using a common soil data vocabulary. At the same time, an easy applicable, well-documented exchange standard is not yet developed. The recent initiatives by OGC and ISO still suffer from a limited capacity for participation and critical mass of domain experts and users.

GODAN represents a global community of stakeholders interested in accessible, interoperable and harmonized data. The Soil Data Working Group will pursue the following overarching objectives:

  1. to agree on a set of global soil data ontologies, thus supporting the provision of findable, well described, interoperable and re-usable soil data, and
  2. to define use cases so that data providers can better identify targeted key data sets and information products to support user needs.
  3. to support the development and implementation of shared open soil data through capacity building and training.

The working group will closely cooperate with regional and national members of Global Soil Partnership and other relevant networks and initiatives (in particular the Working Group on Soil Information Standards of the International Union of Soil Sciences, OGC AG Domain WG, and ISO TC 190 Soil Quality).

The working group’s near-time operation has two main levels:

  1. Global: Development of a set of common soil data vocabularies covering all relevant soil feature types; development of a globally accepted soil information model as the basis for an international standard for soil data exchange and interoperability; integration of existing initiatives through OGC and ISO utilizing expertise in soil information modelling from private industry and public agencies e.g. from Europe, Australia, New Zealand, USA.
  2. National: implementation at country level: selected countries will identify potential open data sets, and receive training to share open soil data following use cases.

The operation of the GODAN Soil Data Working Group will be based on voluntary commitments, its activities and meetings are supported by the GODAN Secretariat. The working group will respond to requirements by its stakeholders and adapt and extend its scope, combined with a strategy to mobilize additional resources.


Time frame:

  1. Launch of the working group by the GODAN Secretariat: February 2017
  2. First meeting: 3-4 April 2017, Barcelona: RDA-IGAD pre-meeting (RDA: Research Data Alliance, IGAD: Interest Group on Agricultural Data)
  • Development of a ToR for the Soil Data Working Group (interested members not participating will be asked for statements of expectation, and can join per video)


Rainer Baritz /Global Soil Partnership /FAO Rome 

Ben Schaap / GODAN Secretariat / Wageningen, The Netherlands