Unique digital identifiers everywhere

by Luigi Guarino on June 6, 2017

A recent letter in Nature:

Members of the Consortium of European Taxonomic Facilities have adopted a consistent citation system for an estimated 20 million biological and geological specimens from European collections. We encourage researchers, publishers and other institutions to engage with this initiative by citing the full specimen identifier in their publications and data sets. These specimens provide reference material for research on evolution, genetics, mineralogy, ecology and taxonomy — hence the need for a reliable identification system for citation (see A. Güntsch et al. Database 1, bax003; 2017). Our system assigns a unique and permanent Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) to each specimen. It follows Linked Open Data principles (see www.w3.org/tr/ld-bp) by including a redirection facility to human- and machine readable representations of the specimen. It also gives credit to the collectors and custodians. For example, the alpine plant specimen Leptinella scariosa Cass., held by the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, UK, and collected in Chile by Charles Darwin in 1834, is referred to by the URI http://data.rbge.org.uk/ herb/E00070244.

Quentin Groom, Botanic Garden Meise, Belgium.
Roger Hyam, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, UK.
Anton Güntsch, Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum, Berlin, Germany.

Genebanks are doing something very similar.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ronoh June 6, 2017 at 2:25 pm

It is true it give a clear reference and detail that can lead one when citing a document. thanks

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Dave Wood June 6, 2017 at 3:59 pm

This mentions a Darwin collection at the RBG Edinburgh. I was personally involved in recognizing the Darwin collections at Edinburgh in about 1970. The technicians were laying out specimens from a gift from Glasgow University (they were closing down their herbarium). I was browsing (idly) through the samples and saw some familiar locations – southern South America from the Beagle voyage. There was nothing more on the herbarium sheets than handwritten locations. They turned out to be a lot of Darwin collections sent to William Jackson Hooker by Darwin for identification, in about 1839. Hooker was then the Prof of Botany at Glasgow before moving to become Director at the RGSs Kew in 1841.

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