[tdwg-tag] Specimen identifiers [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]

Paul Murray pmurray at anbg.gov.au
Mon Feb 27 05:41:06 CET 2012

On 25/02/2012, at 11:55 PM, Roderic Page wrote:

> c) avoid changing the URI if a specimen moves collection/institution or if the host institution relabels it. Once minted the identifier doesn't change (because that will break any links to it, defeating the point of having the URIs).

I was suggesting that it be good practise to keep
* the original URI
* the immediately prior URI
* the URI you have assigned to the item

Carrying the original URI means that all facts attached to the specimen can be recovered in a fixed number of "joins", rather than having to traverse a list.
Carrying the immediately prior URI means that the chain of provenance can - in principle - be reconstructed.
Carrying your own URI means that you can continue to use your existing system for managing your collections.

It's keeping track of this original one that is new, and it's the idea of URIs that makes it possible. Without *globally* unique IDs, an original accession number means nothing without knowing the collection (ie: namespace) that number came from. That in turn means you need a system for identifying all the collections that specimens might *originally* have come from, and that means also that you need to know how the places that you accept specimens from identify those original collections, so that you can translate their ids to your own. It's just impossible. But URIs fix this at a stroke.

Recording three IDs is, I think, not a big ask. I believe that our herbarium data also keeps the number given by an institution which accepts one of our specimens - so it's a doubly-linked list. We'd want the vocabulary to also have a predicate for "provenance record list" which will be an RDF list of provenance record objects, and it would be a nice-to-have for collections to keep track of this, too.

The question is - who has the job of declaring what the "original URI" is for existing specimens that already have a history? And what should that URI be? Perhaps this is where GBIF-issued ids become important. Or perhaps we could ditch the idea of "original URI", and just track the "GBIF URI". It's the responsibility of anyone with a specimen that does not already have a GBIF URI to get one for it.

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