Units and their IDs

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This page comes forth from Action 36 in the minutes of the HISCOM AGM in Canberra, 12–14 November, 2012. At the meeting it was decided to establish a working group to come up with a strategy for implementing GUIDs (Globally Unique Identifiers). As a start, we need to know what units (collection objects, gatherings, determinations etc.) we should assign GUIDs to. In earlier discussions and again at the AGM, it was felt that we don't have a sufficient overview of what different herbaria regard as "specimens" and what numbering practices are in place. Therefore it was decided to document specimen concepts at different herbaria and how unit IDs are assigned. It should be noted that a survey was initiated by Ben more than a year ago, but so far nobody has filled it in. The survey below repeats the questions in Ben's survey and gives some extra space for comments.

For the purpose of the survey, unit IDs can be identifiers (not primary keys) in a database, or the catalogue (or accession) number that is on the physical specimen. We want to know both, but it is important to know how the database record relates to to the physical specimen, so an extra question has been added to indicate to what units catalogue numbers are assigned.

An original specimen (before it is divided into parts) always receives its own unique ID Not always, a unique barcode is assigned to each taxon as a part of a collection where possible. However, separate sheets have their own unique barcodes. There may be multiple barcodes on the same sheet where there is more than one taxon.
The divided parts of an original specimen always receive their own IDs No, for pickled material for example have the same AD-code but separate sheets have their own numbers, slides have a different number series. Mixed specimens (eg mosses) have a suffix attached to the same number referring to a specimen on a sheet)
Catalogue numbers are assigned to We use barcodes as catalogue numbers and these are as above.
Notes We are trying to evaluate models for applying unique identifiers to the various objects associated with a specimen.

AK

An original specimen (before it is divided into parts) always receives its own unique ID
The divided parts of an original specimen always receive their own IDs
Catalogue numbers are assigned to
Notes


BRI

An original specimen (before it is divided into parts) always receives its own unique ID Yes - called the "AQ Number" - leading "AQ" followed by up to 7 digits. JSTOR Unit IDs, for example, are of form "BRI-AQ1234567".
The divided parts of an original specimen always receive their own IDs No - all parts live under the single AQ Number.
Catalogue numbers are assigned to A collection, including all of its parts. Some internal indexing occurs for spirit bottles & wood samples, but these cannot be relied on for permanency.
Notes BRI assigns an AQ number manually to each original specimen during the data-entry process. Note that AQ numbers in the range 900,000-999,999 are assigned to specimens presumed or known to be held in other Herbaria, and are cited (in BRI lit.) as "No specimen in BRI". This is a way of keeping track of all Qld taxa, including those where we have never received a specimen, enabling the Qld Census to be auto-generated.

CANB

An original specimen (before it is divided into parts) always receives its own unique ID
The divided parts of an original specimen always receive their own IDs
Catalogue numbers are assigned to
Notes


CHR

An original specimen (before it is divided into parts) always receives its own unique ID Want to answer No (it does not get a unique number that represents the whole), but maybe/sometimes... If an assignment is made it is the catalogue number but it will be altered to accommodate the number of parts(as described below). If the material is not accessioned there is a protocol that determines whether these 'unpublished/unconfirmed' catalogue numbers can be re-assigned.
The divided parts of an original specimen always receive their own IDs Yes - each part is assigned a GUID as well as the catalogue number.
Catalogue numbers are assigned to any specimen (whether sheet, packets, ethanol(when needed only), slide etc as well as images when specimen consists only of the image)
Notes Our catalogue numbers are of three parts: prefix (always CHR); sequential number; optional single letter suffix. Specimens of a single part are not given a suffix, however specimens consisting of several parts are normally given the same sequential number and a single letter suffix to form the unique catalogue number (e.g,. CHR 1234 A; CHR 1234 B). There are few exceptions to this where a single specimen with multiple parts has been given different sequential numbers.

Many of our "ancillary" collections have their own numbering system. We do not consider that these numbers necessarily will be permanent depending on the material, and they are definitely not citable. A large amount of ancillary material is only assigned permanent catalogue ("CHR") numbers when they are required for loan or to be cited.

CNS

An original specimen (before it is divided into parts) always receives its own unique ID
The divided parts of an original specimen always receive their own IDs
Catalogue numbers are assigned to
Notes

DNA

An original specimen (before it is divided into parts) always receives its own unique ID
The divided parts of an original specimen always receive their own IDs
Catalogue numbers are assigned to
Notes

HO

An original specimen (before it is divided into parts) always receives its own unique ID Yes. If a large specimen is spread across several herbarium sheets, the individual sheets share the same HO number (sheet 1 of 2, sheet 2 of 2, etc).
The divided parts of an original specimen always receive their own IDs No, with the exception of specimens with dried and spirit collections (see below)
Catalogue numbers are assigned to Current practice: a specimen comprising a herbarium sheet and a spirit jar will have a different HO number assigned to each of those elements.
Notes Our collection reflects the changing policies of different curators over time. We haven't attempted to bring legacy specimens in line with most recent practice.

MEL

An original specimen (before it is divided into parts) always receives its own unique ID No
The divided parts of an original specimen always receive their own IDs Yes
Catalogue numbers are assigned to
  • each herbarium sheet or packet
  • spirit jars
  • carpological material (each item)
Notes
  1. We distinguish between parts of a collection or preparations that are made as part of the curation process (the ones listed above), which all get their own catalogue numbers, and preparations that are made by scientists that study the specimen later. For instance, microscope slides will only get a catalogue number if they are the primary preparation (i.e. there is no sheet, packet or spirit collection).
  2. There will be at most one spirit preparation record (and hence only one catalogue number) assigned for each original specimen. This is because contents of spirit jars is sometimes merged or split after catalogue numbers have been assigned.
  3. Our current database allows for containers and hence individual IDs for original specimens. However, our previous database did not. We had (and still have) a "multisheet" string, but this can not be used to retrospectively assign containers and unique IDs, as it has been used to list (i) all parts of an original specimen (as it arrived at MEL) as well as (ii) all specimens that are putatively the result of the same collecting event (based on information already in the database). As we cannot say with certainty which of the two is the case for any particular record, basing unique IDs (which would end up as occurrenceID in AVH) on our "multisheet" strings would be presenting assertion as fact.

NSW

An original specimen (before it is divided into parts) always receives its own unique ID
The divided parts of an original specimen always receive their own IDs
Catalogue numbers are assigned to
Notes

PERTH

An original specimen (before it is divided into parts) always receives its own unique ID
The divided parts of an original specimen always receive their own IDs
Catalogue numbers are assigned to
Notes

WELT

An original specimen (before it is divided into parts) always receives its own unique ID
The divided parts of an original specimen always receive their own IDs
Catalogue numbers are assigned to
Notes