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GNOSIS - Generalized Natural sciences online spatial information system

Research project I2/AE/213 (Research action I2)

Contract I2/AE/213 :

Duration of the contract :


Partners :

  • Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (Coordinator of the project)
  • Royal Museum for Central Africa 
  • Royal Meteorological Institute 
  • Geographic Information management NV 

Description :

The project´s general objective is to bring together scientific data sources from the various disciplines into an integrated GIS management system.
Firstly, meteorological data from the Royal Meteorological Institute, data relating to the zoological collections and research of the Royal Belgian Institute for Natural Sciences and the Museum for Central Africa and data about the geology of Belgium and Central Africa are brought together and tested in a pilot application.
This is practically elaborated via the development of a web GIS portal that should ensure user-friendly access to the data. While - for most zoological collections, at least - searching for data on the appearance and distribution of a species or group can only be done via the name, the project will offer the possibility of performing searches by locality or region, to be defined via a provided map.

The GNOSIS project is not only oriented towards use by professional scientists, but is also intended for the serious amateur and the general public.
The information will be offered in a form adapted to the type of user. For professional research it will be possible - subject to the restrictions imposed by the data providers - to download both rough and processed data and, depending on the research, to combine various datasets with the existing GIS software packages. The non-professional user who does not have the GIS software is offered the results in the form of distribution and other types of maps.

In the first phase, the implementation of a central "gateway" to distributed databases is studied, whereby a central "Common Access System" (CAS) passes a specific request for information on to the various data providers, collects and then visualises the answers. A central metadatabase, with a description of the content of each of the participating databases or subsets thereof, is added to the CAS, so that, depending on the question, only those databases are addressed which can satisfy the targeted request for information. One is examining what data for each type of dataset and discipline must be included in the GIS system in order to guarantee the interoperability between the different databases and a correct cartographic presentation. The central metadatabase is established, whereby both well-known standards and ones in development are tested for their applicability in the project. Several databases representative for each discipline are selected for a test set-up and the necessary procedures are elaborated for handling questions and answers through the CAS and for integrating the results into the GIS system. In this first phase of the project, all basic data from each discipline are housed in a local central database.

In the second phase (2006-2007), a definitive concept of a decentralised configuration will be elaborated and put into application. At the same time, the protocol for data exchange between the web GIS and the various databases is established and the necessary modules are developed and implemented. The search modes (limited in the first phase) are extended and refined on the basis of the results of a test phase in which the different categories of users are involved.
Other institutions with analogous data will be invited to join the project.

- Contact person (project's coordinator):

Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (KBIN-IRSNB)
Jan Govaere
rue Vautier 29/Vautierstraat 29
1000 Bruxelles/Brussel
Tel:02 627 42 83
Fax:02 627 45 93


Coördinator Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (KBIN-IRSNB)

Partner 1 Royal Museum for Central Africa (KMMA-MRAC)– Sections Geology en Zoology

Partner 2 Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium (KMI – IRM)

Partner 3 Geographic Information Management

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