International Seismological Centre - Knowledge Transfer Partnership

International Seismological Centre

This KTP between the Centre and the International Seismological Centre has designed a new technically-advanced system for the quality assurance of large volumes of data used by seismological agencies around the world.

21st January 2013 - 30th June 2016

The International Seismological Centre (ISC) has been collecting and verifying earthquake data for more than a century, which is used in preparing and distributing The Bulletin, the definitive summary of world seismicity. The Bulletin is used by thousands of seismologists worldwide to estimate seismic hazards and in tectonic studies. This KTP between the Centre and the ISC has designed a new technically-advanced system for the quality assurance of large volumes of data contributed by seismological agencies around the world, as a replacement for an outdated paper-based system.

The 13 year old paper-based data analysis system used by the ISC involves reading a large number of event records on large-format line-printer papers, identifying errors and uncertainties by browsing the texts line-by-line, making annotations on the paper records, and entering corrections into the computer.

Each analyst uses multiple tools, ranging from pens and rulers to keyboards, bar code scanners and a mouse. As a result, the work is unnecessarily tedious and stressful which leads to a high staff turnover and consequent expense of recruitment and training. In addition, there is no easy way to monitor progress and provide a seamless workflow management.

The Centre worked with the ISC over the three year partnership to develop an integrated software system (the Visual Bulletin Analysis System - VBAS),  to significantly increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their analysis of these large volumes of seismological data, and when rolled out to the whole team should significantly speed up the process.

To speed up the analysis, a new working practice was developed, based on more efficient, effective and genomic workflow and dataflow management based. The Centre's expertise in visualization and visual analytics allowed data analysis and interaction to be combined in a visual analytics framework, as well as developing new visual representations for the data and designing a scheduling sub-system for managing and monitoring work load and workflows. A web-based gallery has also been designed to disseminate visual results to the stakeholders of the ISC, who use the Bulletin in their work.

During the project, KTP associates Dr Hui Fang and subsequently Saiful Khan, were embedded into the team of data analysts at ISC. The project was highly collaborative, using regular meetings and brainstorms to enable the ISC analysts to define their requirements, and discuss and review different design options.

The VBAS was presented to the ISC advisory board, together with a realtime demo, in May 2016, with very positive feedback. Research Associate Saiful Khan, who passed his DPhil thesis in the summer of 2016, was offered a position by the ISC to start immediately following the end of the KTP project. His continuing employment will significantly strengthen the ISC's capability in software development, which is essential for a data-centric company.

As part of the KTP project, the team also developed a new technique resulting in a journal publication entitling "Categorical colormap optimization with visualization case studies", which will appear in IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics in January 2017, presented at IEEE VIS 2016. There is also a web-based tool, called Colourmap Hospital, for disseminating this technique to a wider user community.