This month marks BODC's 40th birthday. Our history began in April
1969 when the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) created the
British Oceanographic Data Service (BODS), located at the National
Institute of Oceanography, Wormley, Surrey.
Over the last
40 years we have witnessed many changes; these include our name,
location and organisational structure, the evolving nature of data
collected by the science of oceanography and the technology we depend
However, our fundamental role as a national facility for preserving and distributing marine data has remained constant.
- April 1969 — The British Oceanographic Data Service (BODS) created — primarily to handle hydrographic data.
- 1975 — BODS transfers to Bidston Observatory, Wirral as part of the
newly formed Institute of Oceanographic Sciences. The National
Oceanographic DataBank (NODB) is developed, a batch-based COnference on
DAta SYstems Languages (CODASYL) system running on a Honeywell
computer, located at their offices in Acton, London. Our Parameter
Dictionary is born.
- 1976 — BODS is the focus of a high-level review of offshore
industry requirements. As a result, BODS becomes the data banking
section of the Marine Information and Advisory Service (MIAS). MIAS-DBS
is funded by NERC and the Department of Energy and Industry. Its
primary activity is to manage data collected by the UK Offshore
Operators Association's (UKOOA) network of weather ships, oil rigs and
large-scale data buoys.
- 1977 — A Honeywell 66/20 mainframe computer is installed at Bidston Observatory.
- 1979 — MIAS becomes involved in international initiatives designed to standardise data curation.
- 1980 — The Honeywell computer is upgraded to become a model 66 type
60B, with 512KB of memory, 1.3MB of disk storage and six magnetic tape
- 1982 — The in-house transfer system is developed; data inventories
are accessible via Fortran programs and data are quality assured using
paper or microfiche plots.
- 1985 — We spend £5000, the equivalent of six months' Data Scientist
salary at that time, to purchase our first personal computer.
- 1987 — The arrival of the IBM 4381 computer (costing £400,000 —
with 7.5GB of disk storage) and the Oracle Relational Database
Management System (RDBMS). We begin to develop in-house visualisation
software on two Silicon Graphics workstations (costing £40,000 apiece)
to aid quality assurance. Data are still archived onto magnetic tapes.
- April 1989 — the MIAS-DBS is restructured and renamed BODC.
- 1989 — An 'end to end' approach, working alongside marine
scientists during the lifetime of projects to ensure good data
management practices, is developed during the first NERC Community
Research Project, the North Sea Project. The NODB samples schema is
designed to store discrete samples, such as biological and chemical
data from water bottle rosette systems. Our involvement in
international project data management begins. An extra 5GB of disk
storage is purchased for the IBM 4281 computer.
- 1990 — Work begins at BODC to develop and maintain the General
Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO) Digital Atlas on behalf of the
GEBCO community. Our Parameter Dictionary has expanded to contain
around 5,000 parameters.
- 1992 — BODC adopt a UNIX system and data are archived in a Mass
Store, a hierarchical storage system. BODC make data available to the
marine community via its first CDROM product.
- 1993 — We undertake quality assurance responsibilities for UK Tide Gauge Network (DATARING) data.
- 1995 — Our first web presence.
- 1996 — During the year BODC service 1,035 customer requests for data and information.
- 2000 — The BODC web site is launched, providing online data
catalogues and inventories of our data holdings. The additional
functionality helps increase the number of annual requests to 4,644.
- 2002 — BODC develops formal partnerships with NERC’s marine research centres to encourage good data management practices.
- 2003 — Our Parameter Dictionary expands rapidly to almost 19,000 parameters.
- 2004 — We move to our current location, the Joseph Proudman Building, located on the University of Liverpool campus.
- 2005 — Our current web site is launched, providing expanded functionality.
- 2006 — The BODC Parameter Dictionary becomes available online
through the NERC DataGrid Vocabulary server. Our online data request
facilities are updated to include GIS map search facilities.
- 2007 — We complete an extensive modernisation of our visualisation
and data handling software, enabling improved efficiency and
portability, thereby enabling use by external users.
- 2008 — As part of our role serving the national and international
marine community we host and maintain twelve data portals and web sites.
- 2009 — Continual improvements to our web applications and
functionality means that we now service ~100,000 requests for data and
information per year. The next step is to provide an online 'shopping'
facility allowing users to select data for auto-delivery from our
entire data holdings.
We are looking forward to meeting the challenging needs of marine
data management in the future as data are precious; they are
fundamental to the understanding of the processes that control our
The data we hold helps provide answers to local questions or
planet-wide issues, such as the prediction of the impact of global
warming - something that not only affects us, but will also affect the
quality of life of our children and grandchildren. The better we can
predict these events, the better we can protect ourselves in the