Discovering Physical Samples Through Identifiers, Metadata, and Brokering
Friday, 18 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Physical samples, particularly in the geosciences, are key to understanding the Earth system, its history, and its evolution. Our record of the Earth as captured by physical samples is difficult to explain and mine for understanding, due to incomplete, disconnected, and evolving metadata content. This is further complicated by differing ways of classifying, cataloguing, publishing, and searching the metadata, especially when specimens do not fit neatly into a single domain—for example, fossils cross disciplinary boundaries (mineral and biological). Sometimes even the fundamental classification systems evolve, such as the geological time scale, triggering daunting processes to update existing specimen databases. Increasingly, we need to consider ways of leveraging permanent, unique identifiers, as well as advancements in metadata publishing that link digital records with physical samples in a robust, adaptive way. An NSF EarthCube Research Coordination Network (RCN) called the Internet of Samples (iSamples) is now working to bridge the metadata schemas for biological and geological domains. We are leveraging the International Geo Sample Number (IGSN) that provides a versatile system of registering physical samples, and working to harmonize this with the DataCite schema for Digital Object Identifiers (DOI). A brokering approach for linking disparate catalogues and classification systems could help scale discovery and access to the many large collections now being managed (sometimes millions of specimens per collection). This presentation is about our community building efforts, research directions, and insights to date.