Physical samples have long been a basic element for reference, study and experimentation in research. Tests and analysis are conducted directly on samples, such as biological specimens, rock or mineral specimens, sediment cores, soil pedons, water quality samples, archeological 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.
New innovative cyberinfrastructures are now available to connect physical samples and sample collections across these sectors with digital data infrastructures to revolutionize their utility for research, for industry and for the general public, ensuring that published data on samples can be verified and that existing samples can be re-examined in response to new societal issues, environmental concerns, scientific interpretations, and analytical techniques. There is an urgent need for physical objects to be managed digitally, both a global context, and in an interdisciplinary way to support search, retrieval, analysis, reuse, preservation and scientific reproducibility. Sharing object information including basic metadata and other analytical information online will allow broad audiences to discover and access information about physical objects and can result in new discoveries and new science.
Several groups in different domains have started addressing these issues, including the International Geo Sample Number (IGSN), the EarthCube iSamples Research Coordination Network, the Taxonomic Data Working Group (TDWG), and BCID (Biocode Commons Identifiers). Cross-domain groups such as the CODATA Task Group on Science and the Management of Physical Objects in the Digital Era and SciColl (Scientific Collections International) are emerging that aim to better connect physical samples to digital data and information. One of the key issues that need to be resolved is the need for physical objects to have globally unique and persistent identifiers to allow their unambiguous citation and linking of information in distributed data systems, so that digital metadata and data derived from physical objects can be shared. Other issues include the need for catalog interoperability, and also standard practices related to physical sample management and curation.
The objectives of this BoF are:
1. To identify as many systems, both domain specific and cross domain, that are being developed to manage physical objects and data and publications derived from them.
2. To facilitate international cooperation to develop harmonized approaches and best practices for physical object identification and digital curation.
3. To build linkages between object repositories and museums, digital data repositories, scientific publications, and science communities.
4. To enable the facilitation of object and sample identification infrastructure both at the national and international levels.
It is highly likely that this BoF will lead to the formation of an RDA Interest Group.