Correspondence | Published:

Data management

Stable identifiers for collection specimens

Nature volume 546, page 33 (01 June 2017) | Download Citation

Members of the Consortium of European Taxonomic Facilities have adopted a consistent citation system for an estimated 20 million biological and geological specimens from European collections. We encourage researchers, publishers and other institutions to engage with this initiative by citing the full specimen identifier in their publications and data sets.

These specimens provide reference material for research on evolution, genetics, mineralogy, ecology and taxonomy — hence the need for a reliable identification system for citation (see A. Güntsch et al. Database 1, bax003; 2017).

Our system assigns a unique and permanent Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) to each specimen. It follows Linked Open Data principles (see by including a redirection facility to human- and machine-readable representations of the specimen. It also gives credit to the collectors and custodians. For example, the alpine plant specimen Leptinella scariosa Cass., held by the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, UK, and collected in Chile by Charles Darwin in 1834, is referred to by the URI

Author information


  1. Botanic Garden Meise, Belgium.

    • Quentin Groom
  2. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, UK.

    • Roger Hyam
  3. Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum, Berlin, Germany.

    • Anton Güntsch


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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Quentin Groom.

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