In a recent blog post, UT-Austin graduate student Hannah Brame reminded us that data and samples can be drawn upon by a global community of scientists far beyond their original intent if the data producer or sample collector ensures proper documentation and curation. Brame was inspired to write the post after seeing a presentation by the Director and Curator of the UT-Austin Non-Vertebrate Paleontology Lab, Ann Molineux, titled "Forensic Tools to Track and Connect Physical Samples to Related Data." Molineux is a member of the EarthCube iSamples Research Coordination Network, which is an NSF-funded effort to improve the discovery, access, sharing, analysis, and curation of physical samples by connecting samples with digital data infrastructures. A main goal of iSamples is to promote the use of the International Geo Sample Number (IGSN), a globally-unique and persistent identifier for physical samples that allows unambiguous citation of samples. IGSNs allow tracking of analyses of a single sample across disparate databases and publications and connection to a virtual representation of the sample that contains key information about the sample, including how and where it was collected and where it currently resides.
IEDA supports the efforts of scientists to properly document, archive, and cite data in line with existing and emerging best practices and funding agency requirements. Investigators can submit data and accompanying metadata to IEDA in order to obtain a persistent and citable Digital Object Identifier (DOI) for the dataset and to ensure that it is discoverable and long-term accessible. IEDA also supports proper identification and documentation of physical samples through the SESAR sample registry, where investigators can submit sample information and obtain IGSNs for them. The use of unique identifiers including DOIs and IGSNs is part of a growing movement to promote transparency, reproducibility, and, more generally, integrity in science.