National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program

Registering and Exposing Collections

Wooden cabinet with a drawer opened showing disorganized bags of geological samples.

Wooden cabinet with a drawer opened showing bagged geological samples. (Credit: Steven Smith, USGS. Public domain.)

Registering and exposing physical sample collections informs researchers of the availability of the materials for investigation. Making collections available reduces sample collection costs and enhances the value existing samples provide to science. Many collections were amassed using public funds, their exposure to research promotes efficiences in research and promotes societal benefits.

The Geologic Collections Management System suggests avenues for registering samples and collections, with metadata describing the materials, including access methods. Sample registration includes utilizing services, such as SESAR, for registering samples and generating Universally Unique Identifiers (UUIDs). SESAR is an online service which assigns International Geo Sample Numbers (IGSN), which are globally unique identifiers for discerning physical samples to avoid ambiguity that may result from different and overlapping naming conventions used across various collections, or even within collections. The USGS is implementing a IGSN registry service for geoscience samples, which will be available for samples managed by the USGS, other federal bureaus, and partners. 

The GCMS also recommends using USGS ScienceBase and the National Digital Catalog to upload and serve sample and collections metadata to an online service, which allows samples to be searched, located, and requested.