Recent developments in the collection and analysis of all types of scientific data, and more particularly earth science data, have involved the acquisition of greater volumes of information than were required and readily recordable previously (Lea 1979). In order to assimilate these necessary data, computers have been employed for storage, retrieval and analysis as an essential preliminary step to the data interpretation (Clark & Cook 1979).

Traditionally, geology has not been a numerate science, although exceptions occur, notably in the fields of geophysics and geochemistry. Not surprisingly, therefore, a schism has developed between geology and computer science—a discipline which thrives on numbers. However, in recent years this gap has been successfully bridged in many areas of geology and it was the purpose of this meeting to examine the success experienced by various groups in using computers to store and retrieve geological data—in short, the use of databases.

The establishment of databases in the earth sciences has involved not only the design of data structures, data input formats, etc. (Martin 1976), but the transfer of large volumes of data, either from original paper records or direct from recording instruments into machine-readable and processable forms. Furthermore, it has been necessary to make decisions on the relative merits of the use of coded alphabetic information as opposed to ‘near English’ input. Although these are generally practical problems, which can be solved given adequate resources and clear definition of the problems through close liaison between the geologists and the computer specialists, in the case

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