UIS Informatics Commission

Cave Data Exchange Format Working Group

Leader: Peter Matthews


The purpose of the Cave Data Exchange (CDX) Format Working Group of the Informatics Commission of the International Union of Speleology is to establish a hardware- and software-independent format for the transfer and archiving of speleological data, including data for cave survey and mapping. It should be done in cooperation with other relevant groups in the speleological community, and make maximum use of previous data exchange work where possible.

The benefits of such a format would be that data could be easily and validly transferred between every independent hardware and software system which provided a utility for converting the formatted data to and from their own internal format. This would facilitiate, for example:


  1. Produce a generalised data format which is hardware and software independent for both the transfer and the archiving of speleological data, utilising existing international standards where possible, and designed for use with the speleological data field definitions published by the UISIC Field Definitions Working Group.
  2. Identify and define the entities and fields involved in cave surveying and mapping to use as an example when producing the generalised data format.
  3. Achieve international agreement for the format.
  4. Promote wide knowledge of and use of the format among cavers, cave managers and cave/karst researchers.
  5. Produce explanatory and training material for use of the format.
  6. List, facilitate and organize production of software to make use of the format.


  1. Basic scope: The task of this Working Group is to design, implement and promote the format for speleological data transfer and archiving. It does not include defining all the cave/karst data fields which can be used with the format, except for those used in surveying and mapping, so that a practical and complex example can be used in arriving at the format.
  2. Storage type: General storage of survey data is specifically not included because people will need to store their data for use in a variety of ways, e.g. in text files, proprietary database software, proprietary survey software files, etc. The Group is concerned only with transfer between storage methods, and with long-term archiving which needs to avoid the use of any proprietary or specific software which may in time become unavailable or incompatible. However there is nothing to prevent data being stored for actual use in this transfer/archiving format if that turns out to be convenient.
  3. Data sequence: The format designed should allow all the data, including shots and their fields, to be transferred and archived independently of any particular for-use data sequence, such as chronological, by connectivity, by passage, etc. This is because the data sequence will be different for different programs. The sequencing of the data for use by a particular survey program should be performed by separate software, such as a utility of the destination survey program, which converts the standard transfer format into its own format. Therefore the standard format must include sufficient fields to allow this resequencing. Note that one of the objectives of the group is to liaise and facilitate the production of such utilities.
  4. Fields publication: It is not required to do the work of publicising the definitions of any data fields - this will be done by the Field Definitions WG, upon our advice.


  1. Use survey and mapping fields as a practical and complex working example while designing the standard format. These fields have been chosen because cave surveyors have several survey programs available to work with, but each has its own special data format, hence there has been a need for a survey data exchange mechanism for some time.
  2. Understand and document the data structures of cave surveying and mapping. Include in the documentation as many variations of survey method as possible.
  3. Implement the standard using the XML family of international standards (Extensible Markup Language).
  4. Decide how our standard would fit into the overall scheme of survey and mapping procedures.
  5. Prepare a pilot CaveXML draft standard to completion, one which is limited to a commonly used simple form of cave survey.
  6. Expand the CaveXML standard to cover the more complex alternatives.
  7. Co-operate with other groups where necessary in arriving at the format, including advising the Field Definitions WG which entities and fields are needed for cave surveying and mapping, together with their definitions.
  8. Provide public ongoing progress information during the work of the group.
  9. Provide an annual summary report to UISIC, reviewing at each whether the work of the group has been completed, and if so, terminating the group.

Objectives, Scope and Approach adopted Feb 2002