Many of the terms here refer to IGSN before the DataCite agreement took place. They are preserved here to aid understanding of the way IGSNs function. The same principles apply to DataCite DOIs.

Allocating Agent

An Allocating Agent (see also the definition of an Allocating Agent given in the statutes) is an institution that registers IGSN IDs. An Allocating Agent may delegate technical functions and services to one or more sample repositories or data centres.


An IGSN Community is a scientific community of practice, e.g. petrology, ocean sediments, critical zone, etc. The catalogue of samples registered by a community is made accessible through a community portal. The community also defines the IGSN Naming Convention and descriptive metadata for its samples.

IGSN Syntax

An International Generic Sample Number (IGSN) is a unique string created to identify a sample object online. The syntax guidelines are summarised on the IGSN wiki pages.

Metadata Profile and Schema

Due to the diversity of samples that IGSN tries to accommodate, including historic samples with a very limited set of available metadata, IGSN metadata comes in two sets: registration metadata and descriptive metadata. Registration metadata are used only to transmit the core metadata elements needed for the registration, resolution, and administration of the IGSN resolver service. Metadata for sample catalogues uses descriptive metadata. IGSN e.V. have defined a core descriptive metadata set, but community databases may define more specific metadata profiles used by the respective scientific communities.

The registration metadata schema can be downloaded from our code repository:

The metadata and schema are documented at

An IGSN Community can define a more detailed metadata application profile.

Registration Agency

IGSN names and registration metadata are sent to the Registration Agency by the Allocating Agents. The Registration Agency keeps a record of all registered IGSN names and integrates the IGSN names into the handle_system for global resolution into URLs. Detailed descriptions of the data are kept by the Allocating agents and can be harvested into community portals for sample discovery and re-use.

Individual users should refer to Allocating Agents for registration of their samples.