Sample Registration Made Easy

Imagine the possibilities if all physical samples collected in the Earth Sciences were registered in a global online catalog that is connected to the scientific literature: With one click of your mouse you could find all the publications that mention a specific sample.

With a catalog like this, you could search for and easily find all the physical samples you might need to answer a pressing research question and find other samples with similar properties – with supporting geospatial, temporal, and compositional data – and figure out where each sample is stored. And, picture having all the data for each sample available and in a standard, electronic format.

“Sample registration has become so easy that physical samples really can be made accessible to others researchers without much effort,” says Reservoirs and Fluxes Scientific Steering Committee member Kerstin Lehnert, (Columbia University, USA), who has built and operated the System for Earth Sample Registration (SESAR, with funding from the National Science Foundation. SESAR Data Curator Megan Carter has recently created a series of videos, explaining exactly how to register physical samples. “The final challenge to having the system fulfill its powerful promise is encouraging people to register their physical samples in the system.”


Watch all four videos in the series to learn about sample registration using SESAR. 


A number of initiatives have launched to promote sample registration on a global basis. The first involved creating an international organization that coordinates a global federation of institutions that assign unique sample identifiers called International GeoSample Numbers (IGSNs). IGSNs are collected in a distributed system of metadata catalogs. A community initiative to build the Internet of Samples in the Earth Sciences has also formed under the rubric of iSamples (NSF-funded EarthCube Research Coordination Network) to advance best practices for sample identification, documentation, and citation.

The Deep Carbon Observatory is helping to realize the potential of sharing samples and data, beginning with DCO’s adoption of an open access and data policy, which all communities are implementing. DCO’s Reservoirs and Fluxes Community has taken the lead on this sample registry process with a commitment to using the IEDA family of databases as the repository of choice for registering samples and hosting shared data sets.

“Since the first step in the process is registration of physical samples, here too, we’ve tried to make it easy. It’s a cookbook process that when learned will unlock a treasure trove of open scientific samples and collections,” Lehnert adds.

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