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Samples in Earth and Environmental Sciences

In many disciplines of the Earth, space and environmental sciences, samples are key sources for research data. Samples may be rocks, water, plants, fossils, animals and synthetic materials and are often hard to track across publications. The International Generic Sample Number (IGSN) is a globally unique and persistent identifier (PID) for unambiguous identification of physical samples and collections with discovery function in the internet. IGSNs are citable in scholarly literature and enable to directly link data and publications with the samples they originate from and thus close one of the last gaps in the full provenance of research results. 

A sample assigned with an International Generic Sample Number (IGSN) may be found and reanalysed when new evidence and analytical techniques can open new lines of inquiry. Re-analysis of samples augments utility of existing data, especially as samples may be unique and irreplaceable (e.g. rock samples from Apollo Space missions, or marine cruises).

IGSN is governed by an international non-profit member organisation (IGSN e.V.), which operated the central registration system based on the Handle.Net System (at GFZ) until the end of 2022. In 2021, IGSN e.V. and DataCite announced their strategic partnership and since January 2023, IGSN IDs are registered via DataCite services. GFZ Data Services is a founding member of IGSN e.V., operated the central IGSN Handle Server until 2022, and offers IGSN registration services.

IGSNs can be searched for and accessed in dedicated sample catalogues, e.g. the GFZ Data Services Sample Catalogue, SESAR² - the System for Earth and Extraterrestrial Sample Registration, and others. As IGSNs are now functional DataCite DOIs, they may also be found in DataCite Commons, the central catalogue of DataCite, and other discovery interfaces in the same way as DOIs. IGSNs should be cited in scholarly literature and data publications to enable machine-readable links between samples, data and publiations. 

The project “FAIR WISH” (2022-2023, Helmholtz Metadata Collaboration Platform Project, funded by the Initiative and Networking Fund of the Helmholtz Association) represented a major step for the GFZ IGSN Services enabling individual users with an easy and intuitive option to obtain IGSNs. 

Further Information on IGSN

IGSN Registration Services @ GFZ

Guide to the FAIR SAMPLES Template

The FAIR WISH Project