Sharing AGS data via HoleBASE Rachel Dearden

After two years of work, our BIM for the subsurface project, funded by Innovate UK is starting to yield the first of its exciting deliverables. The project was funded by the Digitising the Construction Sector and that is exactly what we have set out to do; to enable the geotechnical industry to access and share digital data. This blog describes the first of our project outcomes that have been achieved working collaboratively with Keynetix and Atkins.

So the problem…

BGS have a huge archive of scanned borehole records. These provide unique insights to the 3D make-up of the geology beneath our feet and provide the geotechnical industry with an unrivalled source of subsurface data. We know that UK industry find this resource incredibly valuable, but it is analogue and we know that many hours are spent transcribing our borehole records into digital format for onward use.

The solution moving forwards… 

The geotechnical industry has for some time adopted the Association of Geotechnical and geoenvironmental specialists (AGS) digital format for borehole data. Transferring borehole data in this format allows the industry to share data more easily, load it into a range of software types, create bespoke graphical logs and also re-use the data for creating 2D cross sections and 3D geological models. The AGS format has been specifically designed for the sharing of geotechnical data and thus our project aimed to make this a reality from the BGS archive; we wanted the ensure that the National Geoscience Data Centre not only archived and shared analogue borehole data, but also digital AGS data.

Sharing is key here

Our aim was to make it as easy as possible for the geotechnical industry to upload AGS data to the archive and also to download the data that we hold. Where is there a better place to locate this interface than in one of the UK’s leading borehole data management software packages? Working with Keynetix, we developed two webservices accessible from within HoleBASE SI.

Our first development is an AGS download function that allows users to explore the AGS data we hold via a mapping interface, select relevant AGS boreholes and then download these files directly to HoleBASE SI. These files can then be incorporated into projects in the same way as any other AGS data but each of the locations is marked as historical in HoleBASE SI so it is easy for the data user to see the origin of each borehole they are using.

The usefulness of such a service is dependent on the volume and quality of the data uploaded to the archive, so the second function we developed was an AGS upload function that allows HoleBASE SI users to select their own data and upload this to the BGS AGS archive directly. This service validates the data and ensures that the donator provides sufficient metadata such that the data is good quality and can be shared and re-used. If you want more information about what constitutes good AGS data, take a look here.

So now the proof will be in the pudding…

The service is live. Please donate your data to the archive and in return take advantage of the growing archive of AGS borehole data that will ultimately improve our knowledge of the UK’s subsurface.

Now, if you aren’t a HoleBASE SI user, don’t despair. You can upload data (AGS, site investigation reports or a whole range of other geological data) to our new ingestion portal and you can search data that has been donated to us via the donated data search portal . We’re working on a mapping interface for AGS data, but you’ll have to wait a little longer for that.


I’m worried that my AGS files contain sample analysis data that is confidential.
  • Uploads from HoleBASE SI exclude all contaminant data. You can choose to upload just the data you want to
I have data but it’s not mine, can I upload it?
  • We do need you to get permission from the data owner to upload your data. This allows us to openly share it onwards.
How many AGS files can I download at any one time?
  • Just 10 at the moment, but once we understand how robust our system is to large downloads we intend to increase this.
Are you going to transcribe your analogue borehole records?
  • We’d love to, but we don’t have the resource to do this. If you transcribe our analogue records, feel free to upload it.
Is the AGS data you receive uploaded to the borehole scans map interface?
  • Yes, we compile a log from the AGS data and upload it to the analogue borehole scans map.
Is this service free?
  • Yes!
What versions of AGS file do you accept?
  • Version 3 or version 4
What versions of AGS file can I download? What AGS groups can be downloaded?
  • We’re providing AGS 4.0 downloads as standard. We share all the mandatory groups and the GEOL and LOCA groups at present, but plan to expand this. The original uploaded AGS file ismade available through our donated data search portal
Can I access the originally deposited AGS file?
  • Yes, there is a link on the metadata file that comes with the AGS data when you download it, or you can get the original file from the donated data search portal
If I state that the data is confidential what happens?
  • We don’t release the data openly until the confidentiality period that you state has passed. We don’t want to encourage the deposit of data that is confidential forever – that’s not very useful to us.