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Improving Sample Metadata Descriptions in Earth and Environmental Sciences by using the FAIR SAMPLES Template

Physical samples are key elements in the geosciences, providing tangible evidence of geologic and environmental phenomena and often represent the source for scientific findings. The International Generic Sample Number (IGSN) is a globally unique and resolvable persistent identifier (PID) for physical samples. It links the sample with its online description and enables the unambiguous identification, location, and citation of samples in digital research infrastructures.

The FAIR WISH project, funded by the Helmholtz Metadata Collaboration HMC, aims to further standardise IGSN metadata and support scientists in describing their samples for IGSN registration via standardised metadata that are human- and machine actionable. The FAIR SAMPLES template enables the provision of rich sample descriptions for different Geo-Bio-Samples. The template is built as a modular Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to meet the practices of the broader research community. It includes controlled vocabularies to describe sample types, sampling methodology, material, etc., and integrates persistent identifiers (ORCID, ROR) to acknowledge the persons and organisations involved in the sampling process as well as links to text or data publications relevant for the samples. The template further represents the basis for semi-automated creation of metadata XML files that are required for IGSN registration.

Currently, the template is being tested by several heterogeneous projects in the field of Earth and environmental sciences. The data processing workflows and software developed in this project will be completed by the end of 2023 and may serve as a blueprint for other organisations aiming to implement standardised procedures for registering physical samples.


Alexander Brauser1, Mareike Wiezcorek2, Linda Baldewein3, Simone Frenzel1, Birgit Heim2, Ulrike Kleeberg3, Tim Leefmann3, Ben Norden1, Kirsten Elger1
1GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Potsdam, Germany; 2Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Potsdam, Germany; 3Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon, Geesthacht, Germany
GeoBerlin 2023