A linking system of difference sets is a collection of mutually related group difference sets, whose advantageous properties have been used to extend classical constructions of systems of linked symmetric designs. The central problems are to determine which groups contain a linking system of difference sets, and how large such a system can be. All previous results are constructive, and are restricted to 2-groups. We use an elementary projection argument to show that neither the McFarland nor the Spence construction of difference sets can give rise to a linking system of difference sets in non-2-groups. We then give a new construction for linking systems of difference sets in 2-groups, taking advantage of a previously unrecognized connection with group difference matrices. This construction simplifies and extends prior results, producing larger systems than before in certain 2-groups and new linking systems in other 2-groups for which no system was previously known.
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