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Find the right map

An online map-finding tool designed for the oil industry will soon be available to individual Fellows of the Society. Neil Marriott reports.

klhlMany of us remember the first geological map we saw – perhaps of our local area, perhaps frame-mounted on a museum wall, or printed in the pages of our first geology textbook - and were struck by its vivid colours, unexpected patterns and the hint of a story to be told. Many geoscientists still have a fascination for maps of all sorts and will seek them out for pleasure, or in the pursuit of their profession.

Picture: the Ben Arnaboll thrust zone, Sutherlandshire - the geo-mapping 'deep end' into which many unergraduate geologists - your Editor included - are (or at least were) thrown. 

For those who use maps in their work, sourcing the right maps, which give the right information, may not be easy. Some may be held by overseas geological surveys, while others may be available commercially. Still others may be held in extensive private collections and map libraries, such as the Geological Society’s Map Library in Burlington House (see Folded or Flat, by Paul Johnson (Society Map Librarian), Geoscientist 22.10, November 2012), or published within the pages of scholarly books and journals. Even if appropriate maps can be found, the search can be time consuming, and it can be difficult to integrate diverse map data with modern working methods or GIS systems.


It was with these challenges in mind that Elsevier set about developing Geofacets, a unique map search and retrieval system for the geoscientist. After interviewing oil industry geologists about their use of maps in regional evaluation, and how they identified and retrieved the key data required, they set about developing a system to improve and accelerate the identification of the most useful maps and retrieve valuable articles of particular relevance.

Launched in 2010, Geofacets was initially designed for the oil industry and enabled geoscientists to identify maps and sections published within Elsevier’s Earth science journals. Since then more maps have been added, including those published by the Geological Society in its books and journals featured in the Lyell Collection. Other societies, including SEPM and the Society for Economic Geology have also integrated their map content, and this autumn further maps from the Geological Society of America will be added.

Geofacets is an intuitive online map-based search tool, its key strength being that it enables the extraction of georeferenced geological maps and links to the articles they are published in. These maps can then be imported into a variety of GIS systems and overlain to extract maximum value from the data retrieved. Searches can be made geographically, and refined by map type, key word, basin or date of publication.

To date Geofacets has only been available to corporate or institutional subscribers and has been especially popular with those working in the oil industry where the stakes are high and investments of millions may ride on the accuracy of map-based evaluations of potential new prospects. However, from January 2014 a new version of Geofacets designed specifically for Fellows of the Geological Society of London will be available.

Geofacets GSL Millennium Edition will provide individual Fellows with the full range of Geofacets functionality and enable the retrieval of the c.20 000 GSL maps published in its books and journals since 2000. Each map search result:
  • links to the full text of the article from which is derived (read-only for titles to which a Fellow does not have access rights)
  • can be downloaded
  • is accompanied by article and metadata information, and the relevant abstract
The price of this new service will be £35 for 2014 and the Society has organised a series of webinars to provide further detailed information and enable you to ask detailed questions. For details of Geofacets-GSL Millennium Edition, this autumn’s webinar programme and how to subscribe, please visit
  • To find out more about how your employer or business can subscribe to the current full version of Geofacets please email Senior Product Manager, Phoebe McMellon at [email protected] or Director of Marketing Regina Javier on [email protected].