DOI: 10.1144/sp527-2022-266 ISSN: 0305-8719

The UK National Geological Repository: a case study in innovation

Michael P. A. Howe
  • Geology
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology


The UK National Geological Repository (UKNGR) is the largest collection of British geoscience samples, with 16 m ‘specimens’, including 600 km of drillcore. Samples are available for study/subsampling by commercial organizations and researchers. Data, reports and publications must be returned. Raw data are available after 2 years.

The scientific method requires published results to be repeatable, necessitating the archiving of samples. Re-purposing samples for new research saves money and time and thereby reduces risk. The National Geological Repository (NGR) has cost over £200 bn to collect and the cost of a single deep cored borehole would be outside the funding of most research projects, so the operation of an NGR makes financial sense. Many of the boreholes have been extensively characterized, so new research can build on the wealth of published data.

The NGR has been at the forefront of international efforts to utilize digitization and the World Wide Web to improve the impact of the collections. Geographical information system (GIS) access was provided to the onshore borehole collection in 2000, and GIS access and text searching were added to the other collections over the next 10 years. This was followed by high-resolution images of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) cores, petrological thin-sections, and images, stereo anaglyphs and 3D-digital models of British-type fossils.

More from our Archive