Changes to Contacts, Persons and Organizations in InPort
Table of Contents
The release of InPort version 4.1.0 (November 2018) introduces major changes to how Persons, Organizations, and Contact information is managed in InPort. This help page is intended to cover the impacts of these changes and help users understand and transition to the new system.
With such a large change, we anticipate that users may face challenges in adjusting to the new system. If you have any questions or need clarifications in addition to this document, please contact InPort Support, and we would be happy to help walk through with you the changes affecting your usage of InPort.
Prior to this release, contact information was included as part of the overall information stored for both Persons and Organizations. Both of these types were used for multiple, distinct purposes in InPort, which was not a problem in and of itself. However, over time, system changes and new features required new validation and rules on these types, some of which applied only to certain situations and not others.
For example, a Person in InPort could represent an application user. A Person could also represent someone who was filling a Support Role for a metadata record. Email addresses are required for application users for logon, and as such was a required field for Persons. However, not all Persons who were filling a Support Role wanted to expose their email address. In some cases (such as for records of old legacy metadata), the Person associated with the role did not even have an email address to begin with.
This is just one example of the many conflicting requirements which made the Person and Organization model complex, inflexible, and difficult to work with over time.
The New Contact Model
With Release 4.1.0, the InPort team has decided to separate contact information into its own type, referred to as Contacts, which is distinct from Persons and Organizations.
A Contact represents contact information for a person, an organization, or a position, but is distinct from InPort Persons (i.e. application users) and InPort Organizations (i.e. organizations that are officially part of InPort and manage a metadata library here).
Also, whereas Persons and Organizations are managed at the organizational level, Contacts are components that are shared across InPort. This reflects the reality in NOAA and among its partners that individuals and organizations often collaborate outside of their own organizations on various initiatives, and are represented in metadata across multiple libraries.
Conversion of Existing Persons and Organizations to Contacts
The hope in this large redesign was to try to minimize the impact on InPort users as much as possible. All existing contact information for both Persons and Organizations has been automatically copied over and created as new Contacts; so that users will not have to re-create existing Persons or Organizations as Contacts themselves.
In addition, every effort has been made to automatically update references to Persons and Organizations in metadata records, to point to the newly created Contact instead. In a few cases, not all information could be preserved due to incompatibilities between the types. These specific cases are outlined in the section below entitled, "Impacts on Metadata Authors and Publishers."
However, for the large majority of users, all of their existing data should be migrated to the new Contacts model transparently, without any need for direct intervention or manual updates.
Impacts on Metadata Authors and Publishers
There are 4 places in InPort metadata records which used to refer to Persons or Organizations, but now refer to Contacts.
A Support Role previously had a Person or Organization field, at least one of which was required for each Support Role. Under the new system, these two fields have been replaced with a single Contact field.
Note that in the user interface, the single dropdown list of Contacts includes all Contact types (persons, organizations, and positions).
All existing Support Roles which pointed to a Person or an Organization have been automatically updated to point to the equivalent Contact. In cases where both Person and Organization were populated, the Contact was set to the Person's newly created Contact record, but the additional reference to the Organization was discarded.
Distributors (in Distribution Information)
Distributions do not have any references to Persons or Organizations, and are consequently not impacted by the Contact changes directly. However, Distributions can refer to Distributors (from the Support Roles section), which were impacted. This does not affect the way Distributions are managed in the web interface, however, users of the InPort XML Loader should consult the XML Loader documentation, since the syntax for identifying Distributors in InPort XML has changed.
Originator/Publisher (in Lineage Sources)
Previously a Lineage Source record could document an associated person or organization that served as the Originator or Publisher of the source. The party referred to could be specified as an existing InPort Person or an existing InPort Organization. In addition, a non-InPort Person or Organization could be used, in which case the Originator/Publisher's name would be provided as free-text.
Because non-InPort Persons and Organizations are often used for Lineage Sources, it was decided NOT to use InPort Contacts under the new system. Instead, the contact name will always be inputted as free-text, even if that party already exists in InPort as a Contact.
In addition to this free-text field, a Contact Role Type field and a Contact Type field have been added, both required if the Contact Name is provided. The Contact Role Type field refers to which role the contact is filling -- Originator or Publisher. The Contact Type field refers to the type of the contact itself -- Person, Organization or Position.
When migrating existing Lineage Source records to the new model, all existing data was translated to populate the new free-text Contact Name, whether it was referring to an InPort Person, an InPort Organization, or a Non-InPort Person or Organization.
If it could be determined from the previous data that the contact was a person or an organization, this information was automatically populated into the new Contact Type field.
However, since there is no indication in the previous data on whether the party listed was an Originator or Publisher, the Contact Role Type field has been left blank, and will need to be populated the next time the record is modified, as it is a required field when creating or updating a Lineage Source.
Process Contact (in Lineage Process Step)
Previously a Lineage Process Step could refer to a Process Contact, which could either be an InPort Person, an InPort Organization, or a Non-InPort Person or Organization (inputted as free text).
Under the new system, these fields have been replaced by a single field, Process Contact, which is a reference to an InPort Contact. Existing records which referred to InPort Persons or InPort Organizations have been automatically updated to refer to their equivalent Contact records.
Non-InPort Persons or Organizations were not possible to migrate as there is no free-text option for InPort Contacts. This will result in a loss of data if no user action is taken. To assist metadata authors facing this situation, the deprecated data will continue to be displayed in the user interface for a temporary period, to give time for users to update their records as they feel appropriate.
Impacts on the InPort XML Loader
The same areas outlined in the previous section, "Impacts on Metadata Authors and Publishers", are also impacted in the XML Loader, as the fields and their related syntax have changed.
All loaders should migrate to the new format at their earliest convenience. In the meantime, the InPort team has made every effort to continue to support the previous syntax with the new system as much as possible, to give sufficient time for updates.
While most of the old syntax is still currently supported, it is recommended to switch to the new format all at once in totality, rather than partially or in piecemeal fashion. Using the old syntax in combination with the new may have unpredictable results.
More detailed information on the changes can be found in the InPort XML Changelog, and the full InPort XML Loader Documentation for the following sections:
Impacts on Librarians
As mentioned previously, all contact information is now managed in a separate Contact record, distinct from InPort Persons and Organizations. These new Contact records are not accessed at the organization or library level, but are InPort-wide, and are found in Components under the Admin menu, along with Instruments and Platforms, which are also shared InPort-wide.
Any Librarian can modify any Contact record, and as such Librarians should ensure that any updates to contact information are accurate and complete, as the changes will propagate to all referencing metadata records, some of which may be in other organizations' libraries.
Please also note that since Support Roles now refer to Contacts, the Support Role Report is now accessed from the Contacts management page, not the Manage Persons page as previously.
InPort Users (Previously Persons)
InPort Person records have been retained and continue to be used for the purpose of application user management. However, to help distinguish their use from Contacts, we have changed our terminology in the application to refer to these records as Users, rather than Persons. This more accurately reflects their current usage in InPort.
All existing contact information fields have been removed from User records since these are now managed in Contact records. However, email address has been retained as it is needed for user logon. Please note this means that if an individual has both a User record and a Contact record in InPort, in the event of a change to the individual's email address (such as a change of name), both the User record and the Contact record will need to be updated, as they are now distinct records.
In addition, a large number of fields relating to employment information have been deprecated from InPort User records, and will be read-only for a limited time until they are eventually removed. These fields were included an an early version of InPort with the intention of being used for certain personnel features, but which now are unlikely to be included in InPort for the foreseeable future. As such they are being removed to alleviate confusion, and to avoid collecting extraneous data which has no current specific use.
InPort User Active/Inactive Status
InPort User records now also have a Active/Inactive status, so that Users who no longer are using the system do not clutter the default display over time. Users can be deactivated or re-activated at any time by their respective Librarians.
As an initial state, all Users that have not made any updates to InPort as recorded in the application's audit history have been set to Inactive status. We recommend that Librarians also review the Manage Users page and deactivate any Users who are no longer with the organization, or who no longer need to use InPort.
InPort Organizations have been retained and continue to be used to represent organizations (and their sub-organizations) which have metadata libraries on InPort. However, all contact-related fields have been deprecated and will be removed in a future InPort release.
If you have previously created any Organizations or Suborganizations in order that they could be referenced from metadata records (such as a Support Role) -- but which do not serve any other purpose -- please contact InPort Support to have them removed.
The InPort team will also be reviewing Organization records at a future date to further clean out any extraneous records, in which you may be contacted to confirm removal.