We describe an information system architecture for the ACES (Asia-Pacific Cooperation for Earthquake Simulation) community. It addresses several key features of the field-simulations at multiple scales that need to be coupled together; real-time and archival observational data, which needs to be analyzed for patterns and linked to the simulations; a variety of important algorithms including partial differential equation solvers, particle dynamics, signal processing and data analysis; a natural three-dimensional space (plus time) setting for both visualization and observations; the linkage of field to real-time events both as an aid to crisis management and to scientific discovery. We also address the need to support education and research for a field whose computational sophistication is rapidly increasing and spans a broad range. The information system assumes that all significant data is defined by an XML layer which could be virtual, but whose existence ensures that all data is object-based and can be accessed and searched in this form. The various capabilities needed by ACES are defined as grid services, which are conformant with emerging standards and implemented with different levels of fidelity and performance appropriate to the application. Grid Services can be composed in a hierarchical fashion to address complex problems. The real-time needs of the field are addressed by high-performance implementation of data transfer and simulation services. Further, the environment is linked to real-time collaboration to support interactions between scientists in geographically distant locations. Copyright (C) 2002 John Wiley Sons, Ltd.