Sample identifiers and metadata to support data management and reuse in multidisciplinary ecosystem sciences

In this 2021 journal article published in Data Science Journal, Damerow et al. emphasize that while sample-based research is critical to a wide range of ecosystem sciences, the increasingly multidisciplinary approach to those sciences requires a better, more coordinated practice of sample identification and data management. “While there are widely adopted conventions within certain domains to describe sample data,” they say, “these have gaps when applied in a multidisciplinary context.” With this paper, the authors present a more practical approach to sample identification and management that takes into account the multidisciplinary requirements of ecosystems research. After a brief review of literature and existing sample identification methods, guidance, and standards, they describe their pilot program for standardizing sample metadata and propose several benefits to the program. They conclude that “user-friendly guidance and sample metadata templates are an essential step in promoting standard practices that make data publishing, integration, and reuse easier,” though proper training, legacy data management tools, and information management systems are also important components towards those goals.

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