New IGSN sample ID minting service

Geology researchers invest great time and energy, often in remote locations like Kimberley (pictured), to unlock the secrets of our planet for the benefit of humanity and the environment. Digitally preserving samples with voluminous analytical data is critical for future research by new analytical methods. Image: Professor Brent McInnes

Geology researchers invest great time and energy, often in remote locations like Kimberley (pictured), to unlock the secrets of our planet for the benefit of humanity and the environment. Digitally preserving samples with voluminous analytical data is critical for future research by new analytical methods. Image: Professor Brent McInnes


A new geological sample ID minting service is now available online thanks to a collaborative effort between national research organisations, AuScope, ANDS and CSIRO. Researchers at Australian universities can now create a digital persistent identifier of their samples and link this to data derived from this sample, in current or future research projects.


Introducing the AuScope–ANDS IGSN Minting Service, a new online tool that allows researchers to generate a globally unique International Geo Sample Number, IGSN for each of their samples before undertaking additional work, such as conducting laboratory analyses.

The IGSN persistent identifier can link each sample with any analyses derived from it through laboratory information management software. Published data can then be accessed via hyperlinked journals online, and all data can be located via online geological data services such as the AuScope Discovery Portal.

Assigning an IGSN to a geological sample is simple: researchers can visit auscope.org.au/igsn-info and click through to the service to enter their university login credentials before capturing sample metadata. Image: ©AuScope/ANDS.

Assigning an IGSN to a geological sample is simple: researchers can visit auscope.org.au/igsn-info and click through to the service to enter their university login credentials before capturing sample metadata. Image: ©AuScope/ANDS.

The national science outcome of this service is significant: guaranteed preservation of the link between science samples and any data derived from them, which helps preserve knowledge of the sample so it can be utilised in future research as new methods become available.

Sophisticated approaches to data management are particularly important in the age of big data, where laboratories experience unprecedented sample processing speeds and data volumes as a result of modern technologies. IGSN also helps keep track of the same sample being analysed by multiple techniques by different laboratories.

AuScope Earth Imaging program director, and John De Laeter Centre (collaborative research centre at Curtin University) Director, Prof. Brent McInnes explains:

‘We used to see just two samples per day in the laboratory. Now, with new mass spectrometer technologies, we see 60 samples per day. University laboratories around the country are now operating 24 hours a day.’

AuScope would like to thank Prof. Brent McInnes and his team at Curtin University and CSIRO, in collaboration with ANDS and AuScope for the initial development of this IGSN minting service for geological samples, and the linking of that process into a laboratory information management workflow. 

AuScope CEO, Dr. Tim Rawling describes this work as:

‘Visionary and critical to the establishment of this production IGSN minting service that will serve the entire Australian field-based research community.’

CSIRO’s Dr. Rob Woodcock explains the critical nature of curating and sharing geo, plant and water samples to supporting reproducible research within the earth sciences:

‘At CSIRO, minerals researchers use the IGSN to identify samples unambiguously and to manage their metadata and data systematically. Researchers can now discover them easily, and consequently avoid duplicate sampling activities and promote re-use of the samples for new purposes.’

With IGSN successfully running for the Australian geoscience research community, other natural sciences communities are noticing.’ ANDS* data technologist, Julia Martin explains:

‘Now archaeology and biology research communities are interested in discussing options for them, both locally and internationally. It’s great to see the momentum!’

Assigning samples an IGSN means data and research findings can forever be linked to the sample and accessible digitally by future researchers. Images: Professor Brent McInnes.

Assigning samples an IGSN means data and research findings can forever be linked to the sample and accessible digitally by future researchers. Images: Professor Brent McInnes.

Problem solved

Until now, research data has been stored on university systems and on researchers’ hard drives– sometimes never to be seen again. Alarmingly, research shows that around 10%
of data collected in laboratories makes it to publication (Aryani et al., 2018Klump, 2017). 

With IGSN and linked data, laboratories can now publish data independent of the researcher, since IGSN can help provide sufficient metadata so that it can be reused/repurposed by others.

Another valuable resource that can benefit from IGSN minting is the private collections of rock specimens currently held by senior academics and private collectors. Prof. Brent McInnes explains:

‘When Australian geology professors retire, their samples need to be captured into the IGSN system so that future researchers can be aware of their existence, current location, and the potential  for analysis by more productive techniques than are possible today.’

With IGSN and linked data, laboratories benefit by tracking efficiencies in their laboratories, moving towards quantitative communication of their value to the Australian research community, and importantly their research grant funders.

Thankfully, research grants and some journals are starting to stipulate that IGSN must utilised, incentivising universities to implement their own IGSN and linked data protocols.

 

Challenges

Challenges for IGSN and linked data include sustained uptake of the service with researchers and adaption of laboratory systems to facilitate linked data. Brent explains:

‘Universities struggle with a random collection of people who come and go. We need to overcome this with some form of continuity. Perhaps a set of professionally endorsed standards’.

Laboratory protocols, and sustained, collaborative advocacy and funding applications will be critical to overcoming these challenges.

 

Background

The IGSN was developed in 2006 by the System for Earth Sample Registration, SESAR, with funding from the US National Science Foundation in 2006. In 2011, The organisation IGSN e.V. was founded in Germany. The  objective of IGSN e.V. is ‘to implement and promote standard methods for locating, identifying, and citing physical samples collected from the natural environment with confidence’ (igsn.org, 2018).

While applicable to any type of physical sample from any research discipline, impetus for the IGSN has come largely from the earth science community where IGSN are assigned to geological and environmental samples such as rocks, drill cores and soils, as well as related sampling features such as sections, dredges, wells and drill holes.

In Australia, IGSN minting has been  available to CSIRO and Geoscience Australia research communities for some time, however, this is the first time that Australian universities have had the opportunity to mint IGSN for their own samples, starting in the field of geoscience. Under the leadership of the ANDS, this will expand to other domains such as biology, materials science, archaeology and marine biology.

 

Promotion and education

AuScope and ANDS are keen to promote the IGSN Minting Service to Australian university geoscience communities, starting with an IGSN Minting Service Webinar on 26 July 2018, please register here.

Later in the year, you can find us at the Australian Geoscience Council Convention, AGCC in Adelaide between 14 – 18 October 2018. We will present on the IGSN minting service and will have resources to share at the AuScope booth.

If you have any questions about implementing or tailoring the IGSN service for your laboratory (research staff), please get in touch with ANDS by email at services@ands.org.au.

To access recent literature on introducing IGSN in Australia, please visit:

  • Klump, J., Devaraju, A., Wyborn, L. A. I., Bastrakova, I., Golodoniuc, P., McInnes, B., & Cox, S. J. D. (2017). Implementing the International GeoSample Number in Australia. In Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs (Vol. 49(6), pp. 236–11). Seattle, WA: Geological Society of America. https://doi.org/10.1130/abs/2017AM-302649

  • Klump, J., & Wyborn, L. A. I. (2017). Identifying and linking physical samples with data using IGSNs-PiDs Short Bites #2. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOJRaLwOaCs

  • Devaraju, A., Klump, J., Tey, V., Fraser, R., Cox, S. J. D., & Wyborn, L. A. I. (2017). A Digital Repository for Physical Samples: Concepts, Solutions and Management. In J. Kamps, G. Tsakonas, Y. Manolopoulos, L. Iliadis, & I. Karydis (Eds.), Research and Advanced Technology for Digital Libraries (TPDL 2017) (1st ed., Vol. 10450, pp. 74–85). Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing. Retrieved from http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-67008-9_7

* ANDS is currently transitioning to The Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC) to continuing and strengthening the work of ANDS, NeCTAR, and RDS into the future. ARDC was established in 2018 through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS).