Physical Sample Curation

From Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP)

This is a forum for the community supporting physical samples in the earth, space, and environmental sciences which includes but is not limited to geological and biological samples.  

Scope of community:

  • Researchers who collect or identify samples
  • Professionals (e.g. Curators,  Collection Managers, and Registrars) who manage samples and data in institutions like museums or repositories
  • Cyberinfrastructure providers and Developers who support tools and services for physical samples
  • Users and Researchers who work with physical samples and related data products.  

We are interested in topics that promote curation and maintenance of sample collections and associated metadata.  We value access to and preservation of samples, both physically and digitally.  Our diverse perspectives represent collections and other scientific institutions of varying staff size and expertise, which is a strength that will enhance our outcomes.

Ultimately, we will collaborate within the Physical Sample Curation cluster to enhance discoverability, access, and use of sample collections.

Our goals include:

  1. Review existing tools and services from the community and generate recommendations for new paths which includes purpose, design and implementation.
  2. Streamline workflows and build standards across repositories.
  3. Connect with new partners in related, yet external groups such as TDWG, DiSSCo, GBIF, RDA, SPNHC, ICOM, and IGSN. The Australian E2SIP is interested in coordinating with this proposed cluster.  Coordination efforts will be taken should this group be approved.


  • There are many commonalities across sample repositories and scientific domains that involve samples or specimens. Focusing on similarities and common concerns will help create a strong foundation to support sample curation and preservation, discovery, data integration, and reuse.
  • Documenting and comparing existing practices can lead to more effective recommendations that benefit sample preservation, scientific productivity, and the impact of samples and associated metadata over time.
  • This community will discuss effective tools and functions that address the vision and needs related to physical samples.
  • We seek to understand the complex and evolving definition of samples to represent a larger variety of earth science (terrestrial, marine, lacustrine, etc), biological, and related samples.
  • We will include multiple working groups on a variety of specific items. Each group will work on an activity based on a focused community/issue, and report final recommendations to the full group.
  • Potential working groups may include:
    • Literature review/previous efforts: gather tools and documents to consider and consolidate. What has been a success? What lost momentum? Why? What recommendations can we make, moving forward (what tools are worth adopting, what initiatives need work/funding?) May require coordination with other existing efforts.
    • Metadata interoperability: discussions on metadata profiles for samples across disciplines, shared vocabulary terms, and mechanisms for supporting improved search and discovery of samples and integrating related sample data.
    • Resources and infrastructure: How are we storing physical samples and related metadata, and funding modern curation activities? What work is involved? These questions reach across sample communities. We need to promote the importance of curation activities, and build infrastructure (both physical storage facilities and cyberinfrastructure) that helps incentivize good physical sample and data curation practices.
    • Identifiers for effective linking and citation: document recommendations for identifier practices that enable linking related samples, analytical results and publications, and citations that support sample usage metrics and demonstrate impact. May require coordination with other existing efforts.


January 19, 2024: Our cluster has published "A Scientific Author Guide for Publishing Open Research Using Physical Samples" in the ESIP Figshare. It is accessible here:

November 14, 2023: Our cluster has prepared a short flyer titled, "4 Steps to Publish Open Earth Science Samples," for distribution at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in San Francisco. It is accessible here:

Previous Webinars



Recent Completed Outputs (updated Feb 2024):

  • A Scientific Author Guide for Publishing Open Research Using Physical Samples. ESIP. Online resource.
  • 4 Steps to Publish Open Earth Science Samples. ESIP. Online resource.


RDA - 23 Things Physical Samples

ESIP's Physical Sample Cluster's Journal Guidance for Physical Samples and Associated Data (draft document. See meeting notes for background and related resources).

Get Involved

  • Email List: Physical Samples Cluster
  • Monthly meetings: Meetings are held every month until the July ESIP meeting. For meeting link, see ESIP calendar. The meeting schedule is as follows:

Feb 13, 2024, 12 pm ET/9 am PT

Feb 27, 2024, 4 pm ET/1 pm PT

Mar 26, 2024, 4 pm ET/1 pm PT

Apr 23, 2024, 4 pm ET/1 pm PT

May 28, 2024, 4 pm ET/1 pm PT

Jun 25, 2024, 4 pm ET/1 pm PT

  • Chairs:
    • Andrea Thomer (University of Arizona)
    • Val Stanley (OSU-MGR), and
    • Joan Damerow (LBL/ESS-DIVE)


Running meeting notes