Why Do We Need the IGSN?

Sample-based data reported in the scientific literature or in digital data systems are always associated with a sample name. Currently, these names are ambiguous and often not persistent.

  • Different people often collect samples and give them identical names (e.g. IC-1 for the first sample collected on an expedition to Iceland).
  • Different people analyzing the same sample often rename it according to local naming conventions.

Ambiguity in sample names has generated significant confusion, has made it difficult to follow the analytical history of a sample, and to link disparate data generated at different times by different investigators. Use of the IGSN as a unique and persistent identifier for samples is a solution to this problem.


There are many examples of the fundamental role that unique identifiers play for the global sharing of information, resources, and objects. Among these are telephone numbers, credit card numbers, IP addresses, URI/URLs (Uniform Resource Identifiers or Locators), and ISBNs (International Serial Book Numbers). In the sciences, the development of bioinformatics has lead to the creation of the Life Science Identifier (LSID) based on the same reasons that we bring forward for the IGSN:

“… the inability to programmatically identify locally named objects that may be widely distributed over the network. This shortcoming limits our ability to integrate multiple knowledgebases, each of which gives partial information of a shared domain, as is commonly seen in Bioinformatics” 1.


1 Clark, T., Martin S., Liefeld T. (2004), Globally distributed object identification for biological knowledgebases. Briefings in Bioinformatics. Vol.5 (1), 59-70.



What is the IGSN?

What are the benefits of the IGSN?

How do I obtain an IGSN?