Tuesday, October 21, 2008

OpenURL for specimens

As part of the slow rebuild of bioguid.info, and as part of the Challenge, I've started making an OpenURL resolver for specimens. Partly this is just a wrapper around DiGIR providers, but it's also a response to the lack of GUIDs for specimens. In the same way that I think OpenURL for papers only really makes sense in a world without GUIDs for literature (DOIs pretty much take care of that), given the lack of specimen GUIDs we are left to resolve specimens based on metadata.

For example, the holotype of Pseudacris fouquettei (shown in photo by Suzanne L. Collins, original here) is TNHC 63583. In a digital world, I want the paper describing this taxon, and the specimen(s) assigned to it to be a click away. In this spirit, here is an OpenURL link for the specimen: http://bioguid.info/openurl/?genre=specimen &institutionCode=TNHC &collectionCode=Herps &catalogNumber=63583. Click on this link and you get a page with some very basic information on the specimen. If you want more, append "&display=json" to the URL to get a JSON response.

So, armed with this, TNHC 63583 becomes resolvable, and joining the pieces becomes a little easier.


David Shorthouse said...

Rod: Isn't this a bit backward? To be sure, those three fields have failed as potential GUIDs, but what's wrong with a resolver like that implemented for DOIs? Something like http://dx.bioguid.org/DMNS:DMNS-Arachnolodgy:ZA.5732. The OpenURL counterpart would be to dump some metadata into a URL to discover if there is a GUID, wouldn't it?

Rod Page said...

In one sense these are the same thing (I could rewrite your URL as an OpenURL query). The issue is that there are no (widely-used) resolvable GUIDs for specimens. If there were such GUIDs, then I'd still need an OpenURL-style service to discover whether a GUID existed for my specimen (in the same way that I use OpenURL to discover whether a DOI exists for a paper).