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Open-File Report 2004–1070

Converting Analog Interpretive Data to Digital Formats for Use in Database and GIS Applications

By James G. Flocks

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There is a growing need by researchers and managers for comprehensive and unified nationwide datasets of scientific data. These datasets must be in a digital format that is easily accessible using database and GIS applications, providing the user with access to a wide variety of current and historical information. Although most data currently being collected by scientists are already in a digital format, there is still a large repository of information in the literature and paper archive. Converting this information into a format accessible by computer applications is typically very difficult and can result in loss of data. However, since scientific data are commonly collected in a repetitious, concise matter (i.e., forms, tables, graphs, etc.), these data can be recovered digitally by using a conversion process that relates the position of an attribute in two-dimensional space to the information that the attribute signifies. For example, if a table contains a certain piece of information in a specific row and column, then the space that the row and column occupies becomes an index of that information. An index key is used to identify the relation between the physical location of the attribute and the information the attribute contains. The conversion process can be achieved rapidly, easily and inexpensively using widely available digitizing and spreadsheet software, and simple programming code.

In the geological sciences, sedimentary character is commonly interpreted from geophysical profiles and descriptions of sediment cores. In the field and laboratory, these interpretations were typically transcribed to paper. The information from these paper archives is still relevant and increasingly important to scientists, engineers and managers to understand geologic processes affecting our environment. Direct scanning of this information produces a raster facsimile of the data, which allows it to be linked to the electronic world. But true integration of the content with database and GIS software as point, vector or text information is commonly lost. Sediment core descriptions and interpretation of geophysical profiles are usually portrayed as lines, curves, symbols and text information. They have vertical and horizontal dimensions associated with depth, category, time, or geographic position. These dimensions are displayed in consistent positions, which can be digitized and converted to a digital format, such as a spreadsheet. Once this data is in a digital, tabulated form it can easily be made available to a wide variety of imaging and data manipulation software for compilation and world-wide dissemination.

First posted September 22, 2010

For additional information contact:
James G. Flocks
U.S. Geological Survey
St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center
600 4th Street South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

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Suggested citation:

Flocks, J.G., 2004, Converting analog interpretative data to digital formats for use in database and GIS applications: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report, 2004–1070, 26 p.





Sediment core description sheets

Sediment cores - Data input

Sediment cores - Recognizing the attributes

Cores - Further refinements



References Cited

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