Terms of Reference

International Union of Soil Science

Working Group on Soil Information Standards


DRAFT Terms of Reference (May 2011)


The IUSS Working Group on Soil Information Standards (hereafter the Working Group or WG-SIS) was established at the IUSS Executive Committee meeting held in Brisbane, Australia August 2010 (Appendix A). The Working Group operates in Division 1 Soils in Space and Time, under the auspices of the Commissions on Soil Geography (C1.2) and Pedometrics (C1.5).


The Working Group is open to any IUSS member with an interest in developing and progressing international soil information standards.



To facilitate the exchange of soil data among the community of soil scientists and public stakeholders.

To develop, promote and maintain internationally recognised and adopted standards for the collection, capture and exchange of consistent, harmonized soils data and information.



The Working Group on Soil Information Standards provides leadership and focus in the area of information standards for storage, transfer and collation of soils data and information. It will support the community of soil data holders to make a continuously increasing amount of soil data and information available using web services, or platforms and tools. This will increase the accessibility and use of soil data and information for cross-sectoral issues such as sustainable food production, climate change, water management, energy production and biodiversity conservation.

The Working Group will support development of a global soil information model, a soil vocabulary service, and a registry of available soil data and information services which will facilitate national, regional and local interoperability and integration of soils data and information.


Specific objectives and tasks

In order to achieve its mission, the Working Group has identified four pillars of activity, in the following referred to as tasks. These tasks also provide the core WG-SIS structure. The following list represents these four tasks and contains additional background information about the foreseen activities.



1. Network building

  • web site (hosted by IRSIC; the report about the GS Soil portal functionalities and other input from WG members will be gathered and considered for the further development of the web site, but also the construction of a network of communicating services), set-up of a Wiki with specific functionalities such as sub-versioning (still needs to be discussed))
  • communication/promotion of the WG goals (e.g. support to the Global Soil Partnership)
  • linking with GEOSS (ensure registering of services; analysis of GEOSS infrastructure, support to the GlobalSoilMap.net project)
  • links among other projects (See map of linkages Figure 1)

2. Soil data exchange format

  • ISO SoilML: development of a (voluntary) test bed, analysis of the soil terminology incl. feature type catalogue, analysis, testing of the ISO/GS SOIL and INSPIRE soil application schemata, in comparison to existing national solutions/exchange formats (USDA, CSIRO, KA5)
  • Test, modify, use and recommend schema mapping tools to transform data sets into a standardized exchange format
  • integration/link with other exchange formats: SoterML, GSMML, BoreholeML, GeoSciML
  • explore solutions to exchange raster data (WCS)
  • promote the further development (and possibly simplification) of SoilML
  • facilitate and ensure the availability of the exchange format to data providers (incl. soil profile upload and download functionalities, and transformation procedures)
  • develop a best practice application guidance/cook book for data providers and users

3. Data availability

  • monitoring of accessible data sets: view and download services, metadata
  • development and quality assurance of large data sets based on harvested Web Feature Services from various sources
  • ensure copyright/licensing (intellectual property rights management IPR)
  • develop service registry
  • establishment of a distributed system of services
  • use and further develop soil dictionary and vocabulary services
  • address harmonisation issue by compiling and distributing guidance documents (such as coming from the EU GS SOIL project): reference terminology, results from cross-border harmonization activities (e.g. on soil classification, vocabulary translation services, comparability of soil profile descriptions and analysis, data quality, upscaling methods, uncertainties)

4. Web processing

testing the applicability of models/services

  • compilation and documentation of soil data applications/methods (algorithms/standards for cataloguing, pedotransfer functions, subversion, etc.)
  • applications/testing (examples)

Development of a first draft manual on web-based interactive soil data application (web processing services)


The specific short term objectives of the Working Group are to:

  • review and test the draft ISO 25258 soil data exchange format (SoilML); omparison with other existing data models (particularly GeoSciML)
  • implement an agreed subset of this model in an agreed schema language (UML)
  • implement an XML/GML encoding of the model subset
  • develop a test-bed to illustrate the potential of the data model for interchange
  • identify areas that require standardised classifications in order to enable interchange.


Activities of the WG SIS

See Annex 1 ROADMAP



See Annex 1 ROADMAP



The WG-SIS will hold at least one workshop/meeting each year in conjunction with IUSS Commissions and national soil science societies or other relevant events where possible.

Other business issues will be conducted electronically as required.


Important conferences 2011/2012 with WG representation

Eurosoil, 4th International Congress of the ECSSS, http://www.eurosoil2012.eu/

IUSS Digital Soil mapping, Sydney April 2012

EGU April 2012, Vienna

INSPIRE 5th Conference, Edinburgh, Scotland, 27th June to 1st July 2011

EnviroInfo Ispra 2011 (Dessau 2012)

OGC TC Sept 2011, Denver


Members (to be confirmed and extended)

Peter Wilson, Australia, CSIRO Canberra (Chair)

Rainer Baritz, Germany, BGR Hannover (Vice-Chair)

Hannes Reuter, The Netherlands, ISRIC Wageningen (WG SIS Web Administrator)

Einar Eberhardt, Germany, BGR Berlin (ISO/SoilML representative)

David Jacquier, Australia, CSIRO Canberra

Sonya Arhmed, USA, CIESIN EI Columbia

Jim Fortner, USA, USDA Lincoln

Panos Panagos, Italy, EC - DG JRC Ispra (European Soil Information System)

Bob MacMillan, The Netherlands, GlobalSoilMap.net Wageningen

Vincent van Englen, The Netherlands, ISRIC Wageningen (EU eSOTER project)

Robert Gibb, New Zealand, Landcare Research, Palmerston North

Pierre Roudier, New Zealand, Landcare Research, Palmerston North

Ronald Vargas, Italy, FAO Global Soil Partnership, Rome


Related activities and contact

Maybe we should start a list with represented information systems; I would like to ask GS Soil partners for membership (an dother incl. US, Canada, Australia, NZ, etc.) thus extending the list of WG participants and network (e.g. England, Slovakia, France, etc.)

ISO TC 190 Soil Quality

Einar Eberhardt, Germany, BGR Hannover (also member of TWG Soil, see below)

Technical Working Group Inspire Soils (TWG-Soil)

Facilitator of the TWG Soil: Arnold Arnoldussen Norwegian Forest and Landscape Institute, Head of Section Soil Resources


Gerard Heuvelink, The Netherlands, ISRIC, Wageningen


Vincent van Engelen, The Netherlands ISRIC, Wageningen

Harmonized World Soil Database

Ronald Vargas

Global Soil Partnership

Ronald Vargas , FAO – GSP Secretariat


IUGS-CGI: who? I could ask Kristine Asch, Chair of CGI; what about F. Serrano?

Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC)

I will ask Didier Leibovici from the eSOTER project, who I will meet next week (1st week of Oct 2011)


Appendix A


Meetings of the IUSS Council


Brisbane Conference and Exhibition Centre


August 2-5 2010


Working Groups


Council agreed to the following Working Groups being established with the reporting requirements indicated.


3. The Working Group on Soil Information Standards was agreed with a need to gain representation from other Divisions and to ensure links with ICSU’s Working Groups on Data Systems and Data Management.   Executive Committee requested that the WG provide an interim report by the Mid-Congress meeting in 2012 and a full report at the meeting in 2014.

Annex 1          ROADMAP


immediate activities:

Task 1 Networking:

  • present results to GSM meeting (PW/June 2011),
  • participate at GSP meeting (PW/RB, Sept. 2011),
  • engage with ISRIC development (HIR/July 2011),
  • observe GS Soil/long-term operational plan (agreement with JRC) (HIR/RB, June-Aug 2011); discuss extension of GS Soil portal to the global scale (all; summer 2011; (is there an option to keep the portal at global level independent of JRC/COM activities?);
  • report to IUSS (PW, July 2011 and short progress report Dec.2011), include outreach activity
  • finalization of ToR and roadmap, and other documents from the kick-off meeting (PW/all, July 2011)
  • development of a web site: initial site, and sub-sites by partners (PW explores IUSS framework; HIR looks into options with ISRIC, see also GS Soil and ISRIC developments), initiate and maintain email list with WG members (the person responsible for hosting the web site)
  • collaboration mechanism: explore mechanisms of OGC (PW/HIR July 2011)
  • Identification of contact points/representatives to other organisations: GSP: Peter, Rainer; ISO: Einar, (Peter, David Medyckyj-Scott to enter the ISO process??); GSM: Peter, Robert, Hannes, GEOSS: Vincent, Rainer; OGC: Robert; GBIF: Jerry Cooper (??); IUGS-CGI: (Rainer will explore)


Task 2 Soil Data Exchange Format: facilitate/promote testing, gather feedback, transport back to ISO, participation at the ISO Adelaide meeting (Sept 2011)

  • distribution of ISO and GS Soil reports (RB/EE June-Dec 2011); GS Soil report (D4.2 on application schema and its application) will be revised until 05/2012; feedback to WG SIS
  • develop WG opinion/response to ISO community draft (all 2nd half 2011)
  • participate at the next ISO meeting (PW, Sept. 2011)
  • feedback to/from GSM.net information modelling task group (PW/RG/HIR, continuously); progress development of GSMML as raster part of SoilML


Task 3 Data availability: vocabulary service and registry development (how to implement, and where); GS Soil thesaurus; how to use it, does it need extension?

  • vocabulary service (RG Sept 2012); interaction with GS Soil thesaurus during the project
  • GS Soil thesaurus (RB Dec 2011); feedback material from GS Soil to partners (RB continuous)
  • Registry: development of a global catalogue/repository of soil web services (first ideas HIR and other WG members interested; Rainer checks activities in GS Soil, reports to HIR)


Task 4 Web Processing Services: quick review of processing service and algorithms, current status, identify potential to standardize service for quick wins, identify early adopters, etc.

(open schedule)



Annex 2:   Relevant IUSS Statutes



A.      Name, objectives and seat of the IUSS.

A3.    The activities of the IUSS shall include:

e.   Arranging for studies in particular fields, such as specific definitions, classifications and databases;


E.      The Executive Committee.

E2.    The Executive Committee shall be responsible for all scientific activities of the IUSS, including oversight of the Divisional structures, the work of scientific Review Groups or Task Forces, (C5g), Working Groups, scientific liaison and collaboration, and any other actions required on scientific grounds.


E7.     The activity of all Working Groups will be reviewed by the Executive Committee at their meetings; a recommendation will be made to the Council concerning the status and activities of each Working Group and whether it should be maintained or terminated.


G.      The Divisions

G1.    The scientific work of the IUSS shall be carried out through Divisions, which are defined by subject, and are arranged to cover the whole area of disciplinary interests of the Union.  The Divisions shall be composed of Commissions and Working Groups.

G4     The Divisional Committee shall manage and direct its scientific program, and shall ensure that there is a suitable level of activity in all main topics within the Division. It shall give careful attention to the development of the science, and ensure that the Division responds to new developments.


H.      The Commissions


H1.    Each Commission has the responsibility for an appropriate part of the subject matter related to its Division.


I.       The Working Groups


I1.     Working Groups are part of one or more Division(s)/Commissions.  Members with common interests in specific topics may propose establishment of a Working Group.  If endorsed by the Division(s), the proposal shall be sent to the Executive Committee, which will confirm or deny the proposal.


I2.     Working Groups will elect a Chairperson and a Vice Chairperson as officers.  The IUSS and the Division(s) to which they belong will give reasonable support for their activities.  The Working Group will continue as long as it maintains an active program of scientific work. 


I3.     The activities of each Working Group shall be reported yearly to the Division(s) to which it belongs.


I4.     The Working Group Officers shall serve a 4-year term and can be re-elected.  The period for the term of office will be at discretion of the Working Group (K8)


K.           Elections

K7.    The election of Working Group officers shall take place at any organized meeting of the Working Group and elected officers will serve a 4-year term starting after the election.  Working group chairs can be re-elected once.  Their names will be submitted to the Secretary-General as soon as possible after the election takes place.


Relevant IUSS Bye-laws (http://www.iuss.org/popup/bye_laws.htm)


2.5 Duties and functions of Chairpersons and Vice Chairpersons of Working Groups.

These are defined in Statute I1 and I2. The duties and functions are to ensure that each Working Group is properly established and has membership of at least one Division. Each Working Group should hold at least one meeting between consecutive Congresses of Soil Science, and show an appropriate level of scientific activity. It should provide an annual report on its past and future activities to the Divisional Chairperson(s) before December 30.

Annex 3:   Service provision

First preliminary list of activities under development

WMS: GS Soil portal (only Europe so far)

GS Soil Search, Thesaurus, Viewer, Harvesting

EDAC Metadatasearch

ISRIC OpenSoilProfile

Cranfield LandIS SOTER

BGR WFS national soil map, soil regions map

BGR WRB soil profile upload mask

BGR applications (internal web soil service)

Landcare S-map (WMS, WFS, Vocabulary)