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Best Practices for Sharing Samples and Sample Metadata

Sample Metadata and Collection Management with SESAR

Samples are a critical element of research in nearly every science domain, especially in Earth, Environmental, and Planetary sciences. They represent highly valuable, often irreplaceable records of nature and carry enormous potential for future discoveries.

SESAR offers services to advance the management and sharing of samples in the Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences. By registering your samples with SESAR, you will:

  • Create a catalog of your samples
  • Ensure preservation of all information about your samples
  • Allow researchers to discover your samples to start new collaborations
  • Link your samples to your analysis data.

MySESAR is your private working space in the System for Earth Sample Registration. MySESAR allows you to:

  • Obtain IGSNs for your samples by registering them with SESAR.
  • Register samples one at a time by entering metadata into a web form.
  • Generate customized SESAR spreadsheet forms to register multiple samples at once.
  • View and edit metadata profiles of samples that you have registered.
  • Upload images and related documents such as field notes, maps, or links to publications to a sample profile.
  • Transfer ownership of a sample to another SESAR user.
  • Restrict access to metadata profiles of your samples.
  • MySESAR functionality can be tailored to personal and institutional sample management.

What is an IGSN?

As part of our registration services, SESAR is an ‘Allocating Agent’ for the IGSN e.V., the implementation organization of the IGSN. IGSN stands for International Geo Sample Number. The IGSN is an 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.). SESAR provides IGSN during the registration process, and maintains the metadata profile pages that IGSN ‘resolve’ to. In addition to the registration metadata required by the IGSN e.V., SESAR collects and maintains descriptive metadata unique to the SESAR community. Except in special cases*, IGSNs obtained from SESAR are 9 characters long. IGSNs obtained from Allocating Agents other than SESAR may have different syntax, but all are guaranteed to be globally unique via a central registry.


  1. IGSN: HRV003M16 (Registered object: Malachite specimen from Angola, registered by the Mineralogical Museum of Harvard University)
  2. IGSN: WHO000BC7 (Registered object: Dredge CHAIN35-2 St18 D18, registered by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

How do I Register Samples with SESAR?

SESAR provides three methods for registering samples:

  • Individual Sample Registration
  • Batch Registration
  • Registration using Web Services.

  • Before registering your samples, you must create a SESAR account. See our Resources for Researchers and Resources for Institutions for more information on creating an account.

Individual Sample Registration

Through the Individual Batch Registration method, SESAR users are able to register samples one at a time through an online form. This method of sample registration is best for when you have few samples that you would like to register.

To Individually Register a sample:

  1. Login to MySESAR
  2. Click the “Register an individual sample” link under the “Registration” header on the home page.
  3. Follow the prompts to fill in the sample’s metadata in the sample registration forms. Once complete, click ‘Submit to SESAR’.

Batch Registration

Through the Batch Registration method, SESAR users are able to register multiple samples at once by uploading a sample batch registration template. This method of sample registration is best for when you are registering multiple samples. It also provides additional quality checks as submissions are reviewed by SESAR curators. To create a Batch Registration template see this tutorial.

To upload a batch template:

  1. Login to MySESAR
  2. Click “Upload my batch samples” under the “Registration” header on the home page
  3. Upload your Batch Registration template, complete the automated validation check, and submit it.

After submission, your sample metadata will be reviewed by a SESAR curator. SESAR curators review template contents for accuracy (is your location information in the right format?) and completeness (one row had a blank field, was that in error?). Once your submission has been approved, you will receive an email confirmation along with your completed Batch file. If there are any changes that need to be made to your template a SESAR curator will contact you.

Web Services Registration

SESAR provides Web Services as a way for user client programs to register and update samples within the SESAR system. Starting in July 2021, new users must request access to SESAR’s Web Services. Documentation for Web service sample registration and management can be found in our technical documentation (SESAR GitHub).