Modernizing sample and data logging

Luke Marsden
Data manager
The University Centre in Svalbard

During the legendary Fram expedition in 1893–96, Fridtjof Nansen and his team obtained thousands of unique measurements and samples, well recorded in handwritten journals and logs. 125 years later, technological development has led to an explosive augmentation of scientific data recorded during cruises and from autonomous platforms. Shipborne instruments on the RV Kronprins Haakon can daily produce one terabyte of scientific data. In addition, data and samples are manually obtained by scientists on board. Only within the project’s first year, Nansen Legacy scientists collected over 15,000 samples and measurements from the sea floor, water column, and sea ice in the Barents Sea. When brought back home, many of these samples get split into sub-samples, in order to investigate a multitude of different parameters. The results are data sets of such size and complexity that handwritten records alone can no longer keep track of the work done. For the Nansen Legacy a major goal was therefore to develop a sample and data logging system, which secures FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) data management.

A first step towards this goal was to ensure that all samples collected by the Nansen Legacy are findable, and that relevant metadata are logged in a standardized manner along with the sample collection. For that, the project’s data managers have developed a system where each sample is given a unique identifier, which follows each single sample through a Data Matrix code on the sample containers. Hence, scanning the Data Matrix codes on a sample container will give all interested access to all metadata recorded for the sample, and therewith ensure preservation of context for individual samples.

A detailed description of the methods and tools used by the Nansen Legacy for efficiently collecting metadata and tracking samples during multidisciplinary fielwork can be found here.

A full overview of Nansen Legacy samples and metadata is publically available via the SIOS portal.