Implementing Sample Identification in Australia – The IGSN Pilot Project

Authors: Jens Klump, Anusuriya Devaraju, Lesley A Wyborn, Irina Bastrakova, Brent McInnes, Simon J.D. Cox, Pavel Golodoniuc


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Summary

Physical samples such as minerals, soil, rocks, water, air and vegetation are important observational units for understanding the complexity of our environment and its resources. They are usually collected and curated by different entities, e.g., individual researchers, laboratories, state agencies, museums, and others. Unique persistent identifiers can facilitate access to physical samples that are distributed across various repositories, helping to identify and locate samples unambiguously and to share their associated metadata and data systematically across the Web. The International Geo Sample Number (IGSN) is a persistent, globally unique label for identifying physical samples. Australia now has three agencies implementing IGSN: Geoscience Australia, CSIRO and Curtin University. All three have now combined into a single project, funded by the Australian Research Data Services program, to coordinate the implementation of IGSN in Australia.

Unambiguous Identification of Samples

Physical samples such as minerals, soil, rocks, water, air and vegetation are important observational units for understanding the complexity of our environment and its resources. They are usually collected and curated by different entities, e.g., individual researchers, laboratories, state agencies, mining companies, environmental agencies, consultants or museums. Unique persistent identifiers can facilitate access to physical samples that are scattered across various repositories. They are essential to locate samples unambiguously and to share their associated metadata and data systematically across the Web. The International Geo Sample Number (IGSN: http://www.igsn.org/)  is a persistent, globally unique label for identifying physical samples and sample collections. IGSN is particularly important for geochemical and geochronological data, where numerous types of analytical analyses can be undertaken at multiple analytical facilities not only on the parent rock sample itself, but also on derived sample splits and mineral separates.

Australia now has three agencies implementing IGSN: Geoscience Australia, CSIRO and Curtin University. All three have combined into a single project, funded by the Australian Research Data Services program, to coordinate the implementation of IGSN in Australia and how these agencies allocate IGSN identifiers to samples, ensuring global uniqueness of the assigned identifiers. The project registered samples from pilot applications in each agency including the CSIRO sample repository at the Australian Resources Research Centre (Golodoniuc et al. 2016), the Geoscience Australia sample collection (Bastrakova et al. 2015), and the Digital Mineral Library of the John De Laeter Centre for Isotope Research at Curtin University (Brown et al., 2014). Figure 1 shows a screenshot of the IGSN catalogue at Geoscience Australia.


Figure 1: Catalogue of samples curated by Geoscience Australia. The inset shows a sample profile from the catalogue.

These local agency catalogues are aggregated and exposed through a single Australian portal demonstrator, which will ultimately be expanded for all Australian geoscience samples registered with an IGSN. The development of this portal also involved creating a common core metadata schema for the description of Australian geoscience specimens, as well as formulating agreed governance models for registering Australian samples (Devaraju et al., in review). Figure 2 shows a screenshot of the Australian IGSN Portal demonstrator.

Figure 2: Screenshot of the Australian IGSN Catalogue demonstrator at http://igsn2.csiro.au.

These developments aim to enable a common approach for the unique identification of geoscience samples and any analytical data or publications derived from them across Australian academic and government research organisations and agencies. The emerging pattern of governance and technical collaboration established in Australia may also serve as a blueprint for similar IGSN collaborations internationally.

The successful implementation of a sample identifier across several organisations in academia, research and government agencies has sparked interest in other science communities within Australia. Groups in other fields are now considering to adopt the IGSN infrastructure and governance for their biological and archaeological collections.

Acknowledgements

The Capricorn Distal Footprints was funded by the Science and Industry Endowment Fund as part of The Distal Footprints of Giant Ore Systems: UNCOVER Australia Project (RP04-063). The registration service and the Rock Store were developed as part of the Research Data Services (RDS) project funded by the Department of Education as part of their Education Investment Fund (EIF) Super Science Initiative.

Competing Interests

The authors report no competing interests.

References

Bastrakova, I., J. F. Klump, B. McInnes, L. A. I. Wyborn, and A. Brown (2015), IGSN at Work in the Land Down Under: Exploiting an International Sample Identifier System to Enhance Reproducibility of Australian Geochemical and Geochronological Data, IN33A-1786, American Geophysical Union, San Francisco, CA.

Brown, A., M. Liffers, and B. McInnes (2014), Creating a Digital Mineral Library at Curtin University, in eResearch Australasia 2014, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.

Devaraju, A., J. F. Klump, S. J. D. Cox, and P. Golodoniuc (2016), Representing and Publishing Physical Sample Descriptions, Comp. Geosci., in review.

Golodoniuc, P., A. Devaraju, and J. F. Klump (2016), The implementation of IGSN in the context of Australian mineral exploration, in Geophysical Research Abstracts, vol. 18, EGU2016-1562, Copernicus Society, Vienna, Austria