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International Geo Sample Number (IGSN)


International Geo Sample Number (IGSN) System for Physical Samples

What is IGSN?

The International Geo Sample Number (IGSN) is designed to provide an unambiguous globally unique persistent identifier for physical samples.  It facilitates the location, identification, and citation of physical samples used in research. While applicable to any type of physical sample, impetus for the IGSN has come largely from the earth science community where IGSN are assigned to geological and environmental samples such as rocks, drill cores and soils, as well as related sampling features such as sections, dredges, wells and drill holes.

The IGSN system is underpinned by the Handle System and is governed by an international organisation, the IGSN Implementation Organization e.V.

Benefits of IGSN

Persistent identifiers play a fundamental role in the global sharing of information, resources and objects. Assigning IGSN to samples:

  • facilitates the discovery, access, sharing and citation of samples
  • supports preservation of and access to sample data
  • aids identification of samples in the literature
  • supports tracking of samples across laboratories and sample storage
  • advances the exchange of digital sample data among interoperable data systems, for example by enabling a sample to be linked to the:
    • data derived from it
    • literature where the sample and data are interpreted
    • curator or collector of the sample.

Referencing IGSN

Authors are encouraged to reference or tag IGSNs in their manuscripts. This will enable publishers to automatically link the IGSN number to the respective sample when the paper is published online. To tag an IGSN, use the syntax:

In a journal article or manuscript a sample identified by IGSN SSH000SUA may look like this:


The use of the IGSN is endorsed by the Coalition for Publishing Data in the Earth and Space Sciences and, since May 2017, all Copernicus earth science journals support the tagging and citation of IGSNs.

See this example of a publication using live IGSNs:

  • Dere, A. L., T. S. White, R. H. April, B. Reynolds, T. E. Miller, E. P. Knapp, L. D. McKay, and S. L. Brantley (2013), Climate dependence of feldspar weathering in shale soils along a latitudinal gradient, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 122, 101–126,

Learn more about journals using IGSN.

IGSN in Australia

There are four agencies in Australia implementing IGSN. All have taken up membership of IGSN e.V. to become IGSN allocating agents for identified stakeholder groups that collect or curate earth science samples for research.

  • Curtin University: allocating agent for Curtin University facilities, staff and HDR students
  • CSIRO: allocating agent for CSIRO facilities and staff
  • Geoscience Australia: allocating agent for Geoscience Australia facilities and staff, and those associated with State Geological Surveys
  • Australian National Data Service (ANDS): allocating agent for University staff and those working in publicly funded research organisations not covered above.


Released in July 2018, the ANDS IGSN service currently:

Learn more about the ANDS IGSN Service, or read the service documentation.

View the webinar about IGSN recorded in July 2018 with presentations by Dr Jens Klump, Prof Brent McInnes, Joel Benn and Dr Lesley Wyborn.  Slides from the webinar are also available.

Future directions for the ANDS IGSN Service

While the scope of the ANDS IGSN service is currently limited to earth science samples, ANDS is interested in working with other communities in order to extend the service for use with other physical sample types such as vegetation, archaeological and biological specimens. It is anticipated that development work to extend the service will commence early 2019 and ANDS welcome enquiries from prospective users. Please email: