Geological models are based on the interpretation of spatially sparse and limited resolution datasets. Non-unique interpretations often exist, resulting in commercial, safety and environmental risk. We survey 444 experienced geoscientists to assess the validity of their interpretations of a seismic section for which multiple concepts honor the data. The most statistically significant influential factor in improving interpretation was writing about geological time. A randomized controlled trial identified for the first time a significant causal link between being explicitly requested to considering describe the temporal geological evolution of an interpretation and increased interpretation quality. These results have important implications for interpreting geological data and communicating uncertainty in models.
E. Macrae was funded by an NERC Open CASE Ph.D. award (NE/F013728/1) with Midland Valley Exploration Ltd. as the industry partner. We thank 763 geoscientists for their participation, and in particular, the REs who gave their time freely to the project. M. Scott (University of Glasgow, UK) is thanked for assisting with the statistical analysis. Four reviewers are thanked for their constructive comments that improved the manuscript.