European Soil Databases "freely" available as vector maps now

To my surprise I found an announcement from last week, that the “European Soil Databases” (ESDB) are freely available to the public. In the light of the new INSPIRE directive, the combination of freely & public for European data will apparently remain rare. Of course we are talking free beer/lunch here since “The data are made available for research purposes only and not for any other activity […] The permission to use … under no circumstances are these data passed to third parties.” and so forth. I feel that our taxpayers money was used to prepare these data.

How to obtain the “European Soil Databases”? You have to send a MS-Word (!) document to them to register. This file opens with a little layout mess in OpenOffice. When will they switch to open document formats (read: ASCII for this purpose or HTML form)? But we should not complain too much of course. Just submitted, let’s wait for the non-free (in the sense of freedom) data now…

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About Markus

Markus Neteler , a founding member of (D-A-CH), (Italy) and the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo), was head of the GIS and Remote Sensing Unit at the Research and Innovation Centre of the Fondazione Edmund Mach, Trento, Italy from 2008 to 2016. In 2015 he co-founded the company mundialis (Bonn, Germany), a start-up specialised in open source development and massive data processing. He is the author of several books and chapters on GRASS and various papers on GIS applications. Passionate about open source GIS, he became a GRASS GIS user in 1993 and a developer in 1997, and has been coordinating its development ever since.

3 thoughts on “European Soil Databases "freely" available as vector maps now

  1. Anonymous

    Hi Markus, I see the license is quite restrictive!! Should we really call this “free” ?

    1.The data are made available for research purposes only and not for any other activity.
    2.The ESDB data were developed in collaboration with the European Soil Bureau Network, which holds a joint copyright to the data with the European Commission. The DG-JRC, on behalf of the Commission, and the European Soil Bureau Network, does not accept any liability whatsoever for any error, missing data or omissions in the data, or for any loss or damage arising from its use. The DG JRC, on behalf of the Commission, agrees to provide the data free of charge but is not bound to justify the content and values contained in the databases.
    3.The permission to use the data specified above is granted on condition that, under no circumstances are these data passed to third parties. Moreover they must not be used in any way for commercial gain or for purposes other than those specified above.
    4.The user agrees to:
    a)Make proper reference to the source of the data when disseminating the results to which this agreement relates;
    b)Participate in the verification of the data (e.g. by noting and reporting any errors or omissions discovered to the JRC).


  2. dylan

    Hi Markus,

    Interesting news indeed. I wonder if we can enlist the help of the IUSS (international union of soil scientists) to make this data really free- perhaps akin to the USDA-NCSS products.

    Also, now might be a good time to start lobying open standards for disseminating the soils data. Here in the US, soil survey information is not as open format friendly as it could/should be- key lobying a couple of years ago might have prevented this.

    thanks for the updates,


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