International Geo Sample Number

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The International Geo Sample Number or IGSN is a sample identification code of typically nine characters. As a persistent identifier it can be resolved through the Handle System. The system is used in production by the System for Earth Sample Registration (SESAR), other organisations are preparing the introduction of the IGSN.

The IGSN preserves the identity of a sample even as it is moved from lab to lab and as data appear in different publications, thus eliminating ambiguity that stems from similar names for samples from the earth. The IGSN unique identifier allows researchers to track the analytical history of a sample and build on previously collected data as new techniques are developed. Additionally, the IGSN provides a link between disparate data generated by different investigators and published in different scientific articles.


The IGSN and SESAR were developed with the support of the National Science Foundation at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and is managed by the Geoinformatics for Geochemistry Program under the direction of Kerstin Lehnert to address data curation obstacles such as different samples that share the same name, and samples that are renamed as they move between laboratories and thus generating analyses that are published under different aliases. As a result, metadata that ensure unique identification is often missing. The SESAR database is designed to address these issues.

At a workshop hosted by the San Diego Supercomputer Center in 2011, a group of experts met to discuss how to transition the IGSN project into a sustainable infrastructure. The group recommended to open the system to other IGSN registration agents, make it international and transfer the operation and governance of the IGSN to an independent body. This recommendation lead to the foundation of the International Geo Sample Implementation Organization e.V. (IGSN e.V.) and the founding event was held at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2011 in San Francisco, California.[1] The IGSN e.V. is an incorporated organisation under German law and is registered at the Magistrates Court in Potsdam, Germany.

Membership in the organisation is open only to institutions, not to individuals. At present, IGSN e.V. has 13 full members.[2]

Sample Registration[edit]

To obtain an IGSN, users need to register a sample by submitting information about it to SESAR via spreadsheets and, in the near future, a client system that can access SESAR through web services. Once logged in, users can:

  • register individual samples or batches
  • track relationships between samples and subsamples (e.g., bulk samples and mineral separates)
  • update information on registered samples
  • download bar code images for labeling purposes
  • request new sample types to be added to the system

See also[edit]