Where to next with persistent identifiers for physical samples? - RDA 11th Plenary Collocated Event

20 Mar 2018

Where to next with persistent identifiers for physical samples? - RDA 11th Plenary Collocated Event


Event date: 20 March 2018

Event time: 08:30 - 13:00

Event location: Technische Universiät Berlin, Institut für Mathematik, Strasse des 17. Juni 136, room MA 549

Logistics info: click here



By invitation only 

Event Goal and structure

Physical samples are a key element in research for reference, study, and experimentation. 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. Samples are the anchors tying data to the real world. The importance of physical samples is reflected in the longstanding importance of curated collections of reference samples and specimens, generally managed on a disciplinary basis. 
In order to join up these with the web of data, it is necessary to have unique, persistent, web-compatible sample identifiers. 

IGSN is arguably the most widely used and persistent system, with 23 members on 5 continents (North America, Europe, Australia, Asia, Africa). Five active Allocating Agents have to this date registered >6.5 million samples for their users, which span a broad community of institutional and agency sample repositories, museums, and individual researchers. IGSN uses the Handle service for resolution, and is now broadening beyond its original scope that focused on the geoscience community. Other schemes have been started for identifiers for physical samples. For example, the Life Science Identifier (LSID) was used for specimens alongside other concepts from around 2004, but has fallen into disuse largely due to the absence of a reliable resolution service. These examples highlight some fundamental questions about how identifiers for physical samples relate to other successful persistent identifier systems in use in the scholarly community, such as DOI, DataCite, ORCID. 

The Goals of the workshop are to: 

  • Bring together international leaders of this type of work across multiple scientific domains and enable them to develop approaches to global coordination and governance for the rapidly expanding field of persistent identifiers for physical samples; 
  • Ensure harmonisation of PIDs for physical samples with known identifier infrastructures such as handle, DataCite, EPIC, and URI; 
  • Investigate development, implementation, and adoption of a common core metadata scheme for samples applicable for all domains; and
  • Have an agreed position on PIDs for physical samples to take forward to the Plenary Breakout for the Physical Samples Group at RDA P11.

The format of the workshop will include both:

  • Short presentations from research networks (Science drivers), the PID infrastructures that each are trying to leverage, and the repositories that both curate and archive the samples and will be key in the implementation of PIDs (no more than 20% of workshop)

  • Extensive plenary and breakout discussions that aim to:

    • build consensus on requirements for PIDs for physical samples across domains

    • agree on a pathway towards a taxonomy of sample types across domains.

    • agree on a pathway to build consensus on minimum metadata required for a physical sample regardless of domain (Common Core Sample Metadata) and how to govern extensions to core descriptive metadata that are specific to a sample type.


Target Audience

Senior people involved in:

  1. Development of identifiers for physical samples in specific communities (e.g., biodiversity, geosciences, hydro, environment, archaeology, etc.).
  2. Formalization of identifiers systems such as IGSN, DataCite, etc.


Related RDA P11 Session:  Identifiers for Physical Samples: What systems are out there? How do they connect with each other & to other identifer systems?

Contact person name

Kerstin Lehnert - Columbia University

Lesley Wyborn - National Computational Infrastructure