IG Physical Samples and Collections in the Research Data Ecosystem - RDA 11th Plenary meeting

Meeting title

Identifiers for Physical Samples: What systems are out there? How do they connect with each other & to other identifer systems?

Collaborative session notes: 


Short introduction describing the scope of the group and if any previous activities

Physical samples are a basic element for reference, study, and experimentation in research. Tests and analyses are conducted directly on samples, such as biological specimens, rock or mineral specimens, soil or sediment cores, plants and seeds, water quality samples, archaeological artefacts, or DNA and human tissue samples, because they represent a wider population or a larger context. Other physical objects, such as maps or analog images are also direct objects of study, and, if digitized, may become a source of digital data. Several different disciplines have attempted to establish global identifier systems, with varying levels of success. There is an urgent need for better integrating these physical objects into the digital research data ecosystem, both in a global and in an interdisciplinary context to support search, retrieval, analysis, reuse, preservation and scientific reproducibility.

This group aims to facilitate cross-domain exchange and convergence on key issues related to the digital representation of physical samples and collections, including but not limited to:

  • use of globally unique and persistent identifiers for samples to support unambiguous citation and linking of information in distributed data systems and with publications;
  • metadata standards for documenting a diverse range of samples and collections and for landing pages;
  • access policies; and
  • best practices for sample and collection cataloguing, including a broad range of issues from interoperability to persistence.

Co-located workshop (March 20, 2018, 8:30-13:00): Where to next with persistent identifiers for physical samples?

Additional links to informative material related to the group

Meeting objectives

Establish a process to make progress on:
1. Enumeration of existing sample identifier systems, technology and governance arrangements;
2. Analysis of the requirements and success factors for identifier systems;
3. Ensure harmonisation of identifiers for physical samples with known identifier infrastructures such as handle, DataCite, EPIC, and URI identifiers used in the life sciences; and
4. Investigate adoption of a common core metadata scheme for physical samples from multiple domains to enable federated catalogues and cross-linking with literature and data.

Meeting agenda

  • Introduction and tour de table (K. Lehnert, 10 minutes)
  • What systems are out there? Report from pre-RDA workshop & discussion on next steps (40 minutes)
    • Review of identifier systems for physical objects
    • What are the common elements?
    • Building consensus on a way forward
  • Prioritizing the objectives of the Interest Group (30 minutes)

    • Identification of links/cross-overs with other RDA IGs and WGs
    • Meeting schedule & communications plan for the IG
    • Identification of possible Working Groups
    • Planning for P12
  • Wrap-up and next steps (10 minutes)


Target audience:

The target audience of this meeting includes:
1. Research data repository developers and providers who manage sample-based data;
2. Curators and developers from sample repositories, museums, and other institutions who maintain physical sample collections and related digital sample and collection catalogs;
3. Publishers and editors of journals that publish sample-based data; and
4. Other stakeholders interested in topics such as persistent identifiers, metadata standards, and interoperability protocols for samples and sample-based data.

Group chair serving as contact person:  Kerstin Lehnert

Type of meeting: Working meeting

Group maturity: 0-6 months