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Building with Nature Guideline > Toolbox > Systems Analysis > Geographical data and knowledge management - OpenEarth

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Geographical data and knowledge management (OpenEarth)

Type: Software

Project Phase: all

Purpose: Software programme for the development and execution of models

Requirements: Programming skills

Relevant Software: OpenEarth, Python, Matlab, R


OpenEarth (www.openearth.nlis a free and open source initiative to deal with data, models and tools in earth science & engineering projects. In current practice, research, consultancy and construction projects commonly spend a significant part of their budget to setup some basic infrastructure for data and knowledge management. Most of these efforts disappear again once the project is finished. As an alternative to these ad-hoc approaches, OpenEarth  aims for a more continuous and cumulative approach to data & knowledge management. OpenEarth promotes, teaches and sustains project collaboration and skill sharing. As a result, research and consultancy projects no longer need to waste valuable resources by repeatedly starting from scratch. Rather they can build on the preserved efforts from countless projects before them.

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How to Use

The most important new skill that participants need to acquire is to perform version control on their data, models and tools. For financial, legal and reporting documents, most companies worldwide have already undergone a transition where employees have accustomed themselves with central version control software (e.g. Microsoft sharepoint). For accessing the collection of data models and tools, we chose to adopt the open source and free SubVersion version control system into the OpenEarth standards amalgam. SubVersion is one of the most common version control tools worldwide by professional software engineers. This means that there is plenty of documentation on the web to learn SubVersion. In addition, OpenEarth offers a dedicated tutorial on its wiki and organizes hands on courses couple of times per year – sprint sessions - where participants can learn this new skill in one day.

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Practical Applications

To demonstrate the potential of the OpenEarth approach we discuss the Holland Coast case. This case develops alternative strategies for the sustainable development of the Dutch coast from Hoek van Holland up to Den Helder, over a timescale of 50 to 100 years. It deals with a range of possible measures, both for sand mining and coastal interventions, addressing (1) the wide range of possible approaches to enhancing the natural potential of a site or design and (2) alternative methods to work with natural processes rather than against them. (Van Koningsveld et al., 2010)

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