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  • Print publication year: 1992
  • Online publication date: April 2011

21 - Construction and Use of Geological, Geochemical, and Paleobiological Databases

Summary

The earlier collaborative project of the PPRG (1979–1980; Schopf 1983a) used a great deal of paper. As analytical work neared completion, handwritten “scoreboards” and “hit lists” were compiled to be sure that work proceeded efficiently and that important samples were not missed. As tables of results were prepared, extensive bibliographies were developed relating to stratigraphic relationships and sedimentary ages. Participants in the project reworded the accumulating paper like so many burrowing animals. When, for example, a decision was reached about the age to be estimated for a particular rock unit, multiple tabular entries had to be changed. Much communication focused on keeping the records straight rather than on questions of interpretation.

The “personal-computer revolution” preceded the beginning of the current PPRG project. Many of the researchers involved had already developed computerized databases, and it was resolved that the power and flexibility of this technology would be applied to the sample-tracking and information-management problems of PPRG. Three problem areas were identified: (i) construction of unified bibliographic database that could be searched and which could be used for preparation of the reference list for the final publication; (ii) management of the sample inventory and laboratory work; and (iii) compilation of results and related information. Systems were eventually developed in all of these areas as described briefly below. In spite of efforts at coordination, the degree of integration initially hoped for was not achieved, principally because the databases were, in their organization a well as contents, the result of individual efforts.