Agents are people, organizations, or groups that perform actions. Collectors are agents, authors of publications are agents, users of specimens are agents, and, if you enter or edit data, you are an agent. A single agent can have many roles and many names.
Ideally, no matter how many roles or names an agent has, a single person (or agency) should be in the database only once. Before new agent records are created, the database should be queried to check that the “new” agent is not already in the database. A collector may have married and now be submitting specimens as collected under her married name.
Agents with non-English names may exist in the database under alternative transliterations. (Felix Chernyavski’s name is published in English as Tchernyavski and Chernyavsky.) In these cases, additional Agent Names are required, not additional Agents. Additional names using original alphabet of the agent’s name are an obvious clarification.(Cyrillic, in the example above.)
For legacy data, the above is a difficult standard. Are Robert Smith, R. Smith, and Bob Smith three agents or one? Sometimes, the activities already recorded for an agent makes the answer clear, e.g., there were probably not two Eleazer Fitzgarrolds collecting grasshoppers in northern Madagascar in the 1930s. (If you are viewing a an agent record, the “Agent Activity” link will show you all of the agent’s actions that are recorded.) Thus, it is useful to provide as much information as possible when creating and editing agent records. If you can figure it out, the database can usefully handle the information. If you cannot figure it out, create separate agents; searches on the substring “Smith” will still find them all. If necessary, two or more agents sharing identical names should be treated discretely.
The Unknown Agent, or “Agent Zero” (Agent_id = 0) to his friends, has the name “unknown” and should be used where appropriate. Do not creat new agents for “Collector unknown,” “Determiner unknown,” etc.
VARCHAR2(15) not null
Agent Type is controlled by a code table.
|Prefix||First Name||Middle Name||Last Name||Suffix||DOB||DOD|
|Dr.||Gordon||Hamilton||Jarrell||The First||28 May 1946||
These fields are used to distinguish similar agents and are hidden to most users. The values displayed and queried come from a separate table (Agent_Name).
- University of Alaska Museum
- Alaska Department of Fish and Game
- U.S. National Park Service
Agencies can have hierarchical relationships, e.g.:
- Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge
- U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- U. S. Department of the Interior
For most purposes, person agents are more explicit and preferable to organizations; designations such “U.S. Department of the Interior” are next to useless. Nevertheless within a hierarchy of agencies, the more explicit the designation, the more ephemeral the designation is likely to be.
These are expressions that have not been interpreted to designate a particular person or other entity. They are simply a transcription of the data that has been offered as the collector of a specimen. Most often, these are people unknown to collections staff, who are unlikely to regularly contribute specimens, and who will have no other role in the collection or in the database. Verbatim Collectors may result from designations that are too vague for interpretation, for example, “commercial fisherman,” “Chavez,” etc.
Verbatim Collectors are an expedient shortcut in data entry because we can circumvent the necessity of creating a new agent when no matching agent is already in the database. But this also allows us to skip looking for near matches that might, in fact, be the same agent, and to skip creating a qualified agent when, in fact, the agent is sufficiently known to warrant this.
Agents of the type Verbatim Collector have only one Agent Name (preferred name), and can only be used in the role of specimen collector. For other roles, Verbatim Collectors must be recast as some other Agent Type.
A group is two or more agents, most likely people, and functioning in some named capacity. So, instead of listing several collectors on an expedition, one might make all the collectors members of something like the “1994 Swedish-Russian Tundra Ecology Expedition.”
Agent Groups consists of:
- An agent of type=group, and optionally
- agents (generally of type=person) as group members
Groups may be useful for things like collecting expeditions.
Create groups as Other Agents, then manage group membership from the group’s agent record.
VARCHAR2(184) not null
Agent names are text strings, some of which may have default values generated by concatenating data from the Agent Table. All agents must have one and only one “preferred name”. An agent can have any number of other names.
VARCHAR2(18) not null
|preferred||Gordon H. Jarrell||One required, and only one per agent.|
|login||gordon||One required for database operators.|
|initials plus last||G. H. Jarrell||Periods followed by spaces.|
|last plus initials||Jarrell, G. H.|
|full||Gordon Hamilton Jarrell|
|maiden||Donna Jarrell||Use if Preferred Name is based on married name.|
|married||Donna Cooper||Use if Preferred Name is based on maiden name.|
|aka||Gordon Jarrell||“Also Known As”|
|aka||El Gordo Jarrell||Any number of AKAs are allowed.|
|aka||–ì–æ—Ä–¥–æ–Ω –î–≥–∞—Ä—Ä–µ–ª–ª||Any alphabet supported by Unicode works.|
|compact||GH Jarrell||No periods, no spaces.|
|initials||GHJ||No periods, no spaces.|
|acronym||MaNIS||Should be applied to agencies, and distinct from initials. (“Radar,” for radio detecting and ranging, is an acronym.)|
|Kew abbr.||GH Jarr||See list of taxa-author abbreviations. No more than one per agent.|
This gives us the power to report names exactly as they were used in any particular circumstance. For example, in Publications, names of authors should be entered in the same format in which they appeared on the author line of the publication.
Relationships between agents can be recorded. Like date of birth and date of death, relationships can be critical to understanding duplication and similarities in names, and in understanding relationships within the literature, taxonomic opinions, etc. The pull-downs are self-evident. If you know of a relationship between agents, please record it. The relationship “not the same as” can be useful in understanding that suspiciously similar names are not duplicates, but do in fact refer to separate agents.
Searching Agents: The search form (agents.cfm) contains several exact-match fields, in addition to the “Any part of name” field, which will match substrings and ignore capitalization. First Name, Middle Name, and Last Name are exact-match fields. Partial strings and improper case WILL NOT match.
To force a partial match, you may use the special characters _ and % to match any single character or any string, respectively. Examples:
|Agent Name||Search Term||Search Field||Match?|
|Gordon H. Jarrell||jarrell||Last Name||no|
|Gordon H. Jarrell||Jar||Last Name||no|
|Gordon H. Jarrell||Jarrell||Last Name||yes|
|Gordon H. Jarrell||jarrell||Any part of any name||yes|
|Gordon H. Jarrell||rrell||Any part of any name||yes|
|Gordon H. Jarrell||_arrell||Last Name||yes|
|Gordon H. Jarrell||%rell||Last Name||yes|
ID finds agents by their agent_id, the primary key in table Agent.
To delete an agent, create a “bad duplicate of” relationship to another agent. All collections will receive a warning email, and if no action is taken the agent will be automatically deleted in 7 days.
Check collection contacts and their email addresses if you are not receiving notifications.
Generally, the record with least complete information and/or the least activity should be the “bad duplicate of.”
Arctos will not merge agents with Addresses.
Identical agent names, between and among agents, is another issue and not covered here. Duplicate agents are two or more agent records that mean the same physical entity (THAT PARTICULAR John Smith; US Fish and Wildlife Service). It is not necessary for duplicate agents to share a name; in fact, they are often introduced because of misspellings. The “Agent Activity” link is a good place to make sure you’re dealing with real duplicates.