What is the IGSN?
IGSN stands for International Geo Sample Number. The IGSN is 9-digit alphanumeric code that uniquely identifies samples taken from our natural environment (for example: rock specimens, water samples, sediment cores) as well as related sampling features (sites, stations, stratigraphic sections, etc.).
IGSN:HRV003M16 (Registered object: Malachite specimen from Angola, registered by the Mineralogical Museum of Harvard University)
IGSN:WHO000BC7 (Registered object: Dredge CHAIN35-2 St18 D18, registered by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
The IGSN is a “mostly unintelligent” identifier: The first three digits of the IGSN represent a name space (a unique user code) that uniquely identifies the person or institution that registers the sample. The last 6 digits of the IGSN are a random string of alphanumeric characters. The IGSN follows the syntax of the URN (Uniform Resource Name) which is composed of a ‘Namespace Identifier' (NID), a unique, short string, and the ‘Namespace Specific String’ (NSS).
The length of the IGSN has been limited to 9 digits to keep it short enough for use on sample labels and for inclusion in data tables of publications (the number of characters is similar to data, for example, Sr isotope data typically use a 8 character string such as 0.703456). The IGSN is long enough for large institutions such as repositories or museums to register large numbers of samples (with 10 numbers plus 26 letters for the 6 random digits after the user code, a total of 36^6 = 2,176,782,336 sample identifiers per registrant is available).