Friday, October 30, 2020

The MUFON Case Management System

The other day, I was looking at the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) database – the Case Management System (CMS,) and I wondered where it originated? The short version, is that it started when Tomas Karlsson asked MUFON if they needed any programming/database assistance? For the long version, I set out to undertake a little research, mainly using publicly available information; plus communicating with  a variety of individuals. I thank those correspondents for their input. An obvious place to start was to explore old issues of the MUFON Journal. 

http://www.dev.mufoncms.com/cgi-bin/login.pl

MUFON Journals

July 2005 issue, page 2. Director’s Message – John Schuessler.

“MUFON Case Management System (CMS) debuts.

After much hard work and preparation, the new MUFON Case Management System is ready to use. We applaud and extend our thanks to the volunteers who made this possible, Tomas Karlsson, Bob Rawlinson and Jan Harzan are the architects and implementers of the new CMS.

We are pleased with their outstanding product. It can be used to investigate sightings from all sources, so we view that as a way of unifying the work that is being done in the field. We also thank Don Weatherby and Wendy Ban for all the work they did on WUFOD, the predecessor to the CMS, and to James Carrion for the work he is doing on the Pandora Project which converts past MUFON UFO reports from paper to electronic files which will interface with the CMS.

The new CMS Members User Guide has been sent to all State Directors and assistant state directors and is available to download.”

October 2005 issue, page 22 Director’s Message – John Schuessler.

“MUFON Case Management System

The MUFON Case management System is online, operational and maturing rapidly. We are indebted to Jan Harzan, Tomas Karlsson and Bob Rawlinson for bringing the new system from the idea to reality.

We thank Kathy Schuessler for all the hours she works to keep the continually evolving membership database current in the CMS. The team is looking at enhancements and ways to get other organizations to join MUFON in making this a larger and more powerful world-wide system.”

November 2005 issue page 2, Director’s Message – John Schuessler.

“Case Management System clarification.

There has been some confusion about how to view the contents of the MUFON Case Management System (CMS.) It is not necessary to use a password just to view the contents of the CMS. Simply, go to www.mufon.com and click on “UFO Case Files” and then “Latest MUFON reports” and view the reports.

State Directors (SD), Assistant State Directors (ASD) State Section Directors (SSD) and Field Investigators (FI) are granted another level of access to the database so that they may enter and update cases. This level of access is password protected.

When a member is assigned to one of the aforementioned positions, Kathy Schuessler adds their information to the access database, thereby allowing them access to the system."

Oregon MUFON

An article by Keith Rowell, of Oregon MUFON, dated 22 March 2013, announced that MUFON HQ had now added the capability to search the MUFON CMS database, by state.  

 December 2018 issue, page 2, Director’s Message - Jan Harzan.

“Three years in the making and the new CMS front-end is finally ready for prime time. As you know CMS is our Case Management System used to collect UFO sighting reports from the public. It was developed more than 12 years ago, in 2006, and is designed to collect UFO data. It was based on the latest technology at the time and incorporated MySQL as the database manager and the Perl programming language for the logic behind the screens. We also used it to collect related information such as Entity Sightings, Alien Abductions, Animal Mutilations and Crop Circle reports. But it was truly designed to collect UFO reports. This is all changing now

The changes are part of a bigger project that was needed for many reasons. First, more than half the visitors to the MUFON.com website use their mobile phones to look us up and report their UFO sightings to us. The current implementation of CMS doesn’t allow for an easy way to enter a report on one’s phone. In fact, it is downright lousy. To do this right we needed a Responsive Design tool to allow the easy conversion of the data entry screens from platform to platform.

Read that as from your computer to one’s phone or tablet. So regardless of what device one is using it is easy to report a UFO sighting.

The second issue which needed addressing was the ability to report Abduction and Entity cases, especially ones that did not involve a UFO, without having to be presented with UFO sighting screens that are not relevant. With a little magic and a lot of sweat, all of that is changing. Now, when one signs onto MUFON.com and clicks “Report a UFO” the first question that will be asked is “What would you like to report?” One will then be able to click one, two, or three options to report either a UFO, an Abduction or an Entity sighting – or all three if desired.

Depending on what’s selected on the front-end, the question set will be tailored to the type of sighting encounter a person wishes to report.

Big thanks go out to the many people who made this possible. First on the list is Tomas Karlsson, the primary programmer on the project. Also the late Craig Lang for his programming and design work on the front-end, and many others who worked tirelessly to bring this about. Finally, thank-you’s to the following people who helped beta test the site prior to launch: Tom Bowden, Ruben Uriarte, Dinah Lechner, John Gagnon, Tim Martin, Fred Kohler, Jeffrey MacMakin and Ken St. John.

MUFON is about teamwork, and this was a big team effort and one well worth it!”

What is MySQL? 

It is an open source, relational database. SQL is short for Structured Query Language, and is a language used by programmers, both used to control access to the database, and to modify , and pull out data.

What is Perl?

Perl is an open source programming language, created by an individual named Larry Wall

“A history of MUFON”

I then visited the MUFON website, and found “A history of MUFON “article by John Schuessler, which included the following:

“One of the best improvements in MUFON's handling of UFO reports during this era was the development of the computerized Case Management System (CMS). This system was developed by a team headed by Jan Harzan and revolutionized the way UFO reports were handled. It is available for reporting UFO incidents by the public anywhere in the world via the MUFON website (www.mufon.com). As soon as a report hits the CMS, it is automatically dispatched to the Director of Investigations and to the appropriate State Director for action. A rapid-response team has been organized and is used for high value cases. Another value of the CMS is that it is the repository for all UFO cases coming to MUFON and the results of all investigations are plugged back into the CMS as the work progresses. People everywhere are interested in when and where UFO incidents are reported and they may follow this on the MUFON website where they can see a listing of the latest 20 UFO reports at any time. The CMS also automatically alerts the MUFON investigative team when multiple reports appear to indicate something big is going on and that information also goes to the rapid-response teams. The CMS is continually being improved and many more capabilities are being made that will automate more of the CMS functions.”

Radio interview

Jan Harzan was a guest on “UFO Sunday” on 24 April 2020, and part of the show was about the CMS. Here are my notes from that part of the interview:

- Around 2000 developed WUFOD. Developed by a gentleman in Ohio who worked for Lucit (Phonetic) an offshoot of AT&T. Mainframe based.

- Around 2005/2006 Tomas Karlsson, another individual and I developed CMS. Built on MySQL database, very robust and industry standard. Thousands of hours went into development.

- Have own project MAARS – converting paper reports to digital. Kenny Kabrowski (phonetic).

CMS Powerpoint presentation

Someone uploaded a seven slide Powerpoint presentation to SlideServe.com This provides an overview of the system, including information about WUFOD, the forerunner to CMS. 

https://www.slideserve.com/alcina/mufon-case-management-system

Who is Jan Harzan?

In April 1965, when he was ten years old, Harzan and his brother Jeffrey  aged 9, reported a close encounter with a UFO. In 1991, while working for IBM, in a senior executive role, Harzan attended a MUFON meeting in Los Angeles. Then between 1995 and 2013, he was the State Section Director for MUFON Orange County in California. So, the development of the MUFON CMS came while he was in that position, and as Harzan had no formal qualifications in computer programming, I understand he served in a non-technical capacity on the CMS project. Harzan went on to become the Executive Director of MUFON between 2013 and 2020. His formal qualification was a degree in Nuclear Engineering from the University of California - LA.

Who is Tomas Karlsson?

According to his LinkedIn profile, Karlsson is currently employed as a Senior UI Engineer at Verizon Media, in Baltimore, Maryland, where he has worked since September 2014. Prior to that he was employed between April 2013 and May 2014, at Goldstar Learning inc.in Chicago, Illinois. Between December 2012 and March 2014 he worked as a Web Frontend Engineer at iDirect. Hendon, Virginia. From June 2006 to October 2012, he was a Perl/web developer at Alertsite, Somerville, MA. He states, for this latter job, he was a “Perl programmer with focus on modern web applications, ranging from database backend work (MySQL) to HTLM5/javascript/AJAX/Query coding. I am an advocate of open source models.”

Karlsson was educated at the Faculty of Engineering at Lund University and obtained a Masters Degree, Engineering Physics/Applied Physics, 1986-1992.

On his LinkedIn profile, under endorsements, is one from David McDonald, Executive Director for MUFON.

I found a reference to Tomas Karlsson, dated 15 August 2018, where he received a MUFON award “for outstanding service for the implementation of the Mobile version of the MUFON Case Management."

Who is Bob Rawlinson?

I found almost no information on the Internet, about Bob Rawlinson's contribution to the CMS other than what I have already provided. One of my correspondents stated that "Bob really only worked on the data conversion of the old WUFOD cases into the new CMS database." 

Who was the late Craig Raymond Lang?

Lang was a certified hypnotherapist, with a practice in Minneapolis. Earlier, he had completed a degree in computing and electrical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; plus a masters degree in software engineering at the University of St. Thomas. He was the State Director for Minnesota for MUFON; and the author of two UFO related books, namely “The Cosmic Bridge” and “The Other Side of the Sky.” Sadly, Lang passed away on 19 February 2018. According to Harzan (December 2018) Lang assisted with programming and design work on the front-end of the CMS.

“Making a report.”

I found a section on the MUFON website, titled “Making a report.”

“From a computer system standpoint we store your personal information separate from your case information in such a way that the public can’t see it.”

Once you report a sighting what happens?

“We treat your personal information with respect. Your contact information goes to the State Director where your sighting occurred and to the MUFON Field Investigator assigned to your case.”

“Once you complete the form, click Submit button and your report will be assigned an official MUFON case number and will be sent to the MUFON State or National Director where your sighting occurred for follow-up.”

“If you press the SUBMIT button on your sighting report it is automatically routed to the State or National Director where your sighting took place. The State Director then assigns your case to one of his or her Field Investigators for review and further follow-up as needed. This may, or may not, include a telephone or on-site visit and interview depending on the nature of the report.”

“Each case that is investigated is given a formal case disposition by the MUFON Field Investigator assigned to the case. This is the investigator’s assessment of what the investigation found. The four case dispositions that a case can be marked are UNKNOWN; IFO; Hoax or Insufficient Data.”

“What if I don’t agree with the Field Investigator’s findings?

You, as the witness, may request a case review. To do so, send your statement of why you disagree (one page max) and any facts to back up your statement along with your number, or date of your sighting to hq@mufon.com. Your case will then be reviewed by a committee of three individuals and you will be made aware of their findings. If after this review you do not agree with the finding of the review committee you case may be appealed to the MUFON Science Review Board. The findings of the SRB will be the final word on the disposition of your case.”

“MUFON receives between 500 and 1000 UFO reports a month from all across the globe.”

 Checking the system

I went to the MUFON website and clicked on the "report a sighting" button. This brought up a screen which read “Please read before filing a report! The objects described below have been fully investigated and identified as man-made. If you are reporting a sighting of these objects, please do not continue. STARLINK satellite – read more or continue or cancel report.

I chose to continue. Then a second screen appeared which read: “Please select all that apply to your UFO/ET experience by checking the box below.” There were boxes labelled UFO sighting; Abduction; Entity seen. I chose UFO sighting. This then led me onto the main screen, where I was asked for my contact details and details of the experience. I cancelled out at this stage.

So, a witness generates a report in the CMS by imputing details; a case number is assigned and the sighting goes to a State or National Director who assigns it to a Field Investigator. What does the Field Investigator do? For details about this I turned to the MUFON Field Investigators’ Manual, 2013 edition.

The 308 page manual provides details about the MUFON network; a field investigator’s kit list; media policy; and the ten step investigation process:

1.       Receive the UFO report

2.       Contact and interview the witness

3.       Collection of physical evidence

4.       Recording event measurements

5.       Gather corroborating evidence

6.       Using proper investigative tools

7.       Develop and test your hypothesis

8.       Developing conclusions

9.       Writing the report

10.     Uploading and closing the investigation.

I found that there is an online CMS instruction manual, but this isn’t accessible by the public.

What does a completed investigation report look like? For three examples, click here.

The following image shows the disposition categories for CMS data:

https://mufonfieldinvestigator.blogspot.com/

In summary

So, the witness makes a report via the CMS; it is assigned a case number and routed to the State or National Director, who assigns the investigation to a Field Investigator. This individual researches the case and writes a report and assigns a case disposition; this is reviewed by the State or National Director and the case is closed.

Who can see the case?

If it is one of the latest 20 reports, then  the public can see details of the case, but not the investigation report or the case disposition.

Search the database

On the MUFON website there is a tab “Track UFOs," and one of the options is “search database.” Clicking on this brings up a multiple field screen where you can input variables and search the database. These variables are:

·         Date submitted

·         Date of event

·         Event country

·         Event state (USA)

·         Keyword/phrase

·         Case number

·         Entity

·         Landing observations

·         Shape Color

·         Distance from witness

·         Primary sort method

·         Secondary sort method.

I selected the date range, January 1, 2019 to December 31, 2019 and for Australia. The resultant screen produced a maximum of 50 reports. I looked at one specific case listed, namely 20 August 2019 at 10.22am. “UFO sighting from plane window on flight from Hobart, Tasmania to Melbourne, Victoria.” Clicking on the VIEW button brought up a “Long description of sighting report,” which read:

“The dark grey orb appeared on the first image of a series of photos when I was trying to capture a rainbow beneath impending storm activity. Photo and support material attached. “

Attached are two MS Word docx documents. I was able to open both of these, see the image taken, details of the flight and camera settings and indeed the witness name appeared there; plus in the second document I could see the seven images taken.

As a member of the public I was not able to see the Field Investigator’s case report, or the final case disposition.

Looking at other cases on the list, there were JPG images available; and MP4 and MOV imagery, plus in some cases the "long description" was quite lengthy. Again though, as a member of the public I was unable to see the Field Investigator’s case report or see a final disposition. Through my experienced eyes, the details one can see, gives you a fairly good idea of what the witness saw, even without a case disposition.

Further information

Later, an overseas correspondent advised me that:

- “WUFOD. ‘World-wide UFO database’ Don Weatherby, Wendy Ban and others in the late 1980’s onwards. Went online about September 2000.

- CMS – Launched in or around July 2005. Replaced WUFOD. Worked on by Tomas Karlsson, Bob Rawlinson and Jan Harzan.

- CMS II (revised.) Tomas Karlsson, Terry Groff and John Jenner…”

Who is Terry Groff?

In the MUFON Field Investigators Manual, there is a section which deals with numeric evaluation of reports. This is said to provide a value "...representing the degree of certainty that the report indeed represents an anomalous event that happened as recorded."

It would appear that Groff assisted in the CMS usage of this certainty index. As early as 2003, Groff' wrote about it. The February 2003 issue of the MUFON journal carried an article by Groff titled "Online Javascript Certainty Index Calculator."

In 2009, Groff became the MUFON Deputy Director of Investigations. Groff's LinkedIn profile says he was MUFON Deputy Director of Investigations from January 2001 to the present. He gives his formal education as Richland Community College, 1984-1985. "None, mathematics, statistics" and under "Tools" lists Javascript.

Who is John Jenner?

In a 2011 article by Dave Bakke, writing about UFOs, Bakke mentions "... is John Jenner, Central Illinois representative for the Mutual UFO Network." John is no longer with MUFON and with his permission, I quote his response to my inquiries:

"I was involved10/2009 to 12/2011. The system was already developed by then and I was just assisting Tomas with enhancements. I was under the impression that Tomas was the developer behind CMS.

I worked with Jan Harzan and Terry Groff from a functional perspective. I do not know Bob Rawlinson or Craig lang. Israel Curiel took over after Tomas and I stopped and he may have done some revamping/rewriting but I'm not sure.

I'm thinking Tomas stopped working on it about the end of 2010 and it was just me for a while then Israel joined. Not 100% sure on the timeline though, just an approximation."

Who is Israel Curiel?

According to a 15 August 2012 article  Curiel was at that time, the MUFON North Carolina Public Relations director, and had been a MUFON Field Investigator since May 2011. Another 2012 article  also adds that he was a data analyst for MUFON North Carolina. A 2014 blog post showed he continued as MUFON North Carolina Public Relations Director through 2014. His current LinkedIn profile makes no mention of MUFON. 

Another correspondent advised:

“CMS server was in Harzan’s house. Ken St. John now works deep in the program and the only one allowed full access other than Jan. Not even the board members have that access. …the server is paid by the budget from the membership and product sales…” 

Ken St John has been the MUFON Chief Operating Officer, since May 2020. 

Additional information

Australian researcher Bill Chalker had some comments about MUFON CMS case number 20706, an event from  Port Jervis, New York, dated 25 November 2009.

The MUFON Journal for January 2010, pages 10 & 22 provide a “Bonus SIP Report” by Richard Lang. It was based on the original case report from Charles Modlin and Vicki LeBlanc.

The incident involved a 41 year old medical professional who was driving alone in a vehicle around midnight.  He encountered a cigar shaped object. He stopped the car at the side of the road and engaged the gear to park. The engine was still running. He heard a continuous low frequency sound.

The object passed over the vehicle. The car’s engine stopped by itself. He tried to use the cell phone but despite being charged, it was inoperative. The witness tried to roll down the automatic window but it malfunctioned. After 2-3 minutes the lights on the object switched off and the car’s engine started by itself. The witness left the area.

MUFON investigators were on the scene within two days. The cell phone was by then working normally. A check for radiation on both the car and at the encounter site revealed none above background readings. A tri-field meter used on the car revealed “Both the electro-static and electro-magnetic fields appear to have been dramatically affected.” A control vehicle was used to compare to the encounter car. All, in all, a significant report.

Chalker, in a blog article dated1 March 2018, discusses this case and points out an anomaly. The publically available MUFON data on the case shows it as a typical “Car stop” case. However, Chuck Modlin, on the Canadian Close Encounter History Channel funded documentary, in 2013, revealed that the event was also an example of a “solid light” case. A previously unknown aspect.

Chalker posed the question “…is whether MUFON publically described a limited account of the case to their membership and to the UFO community, and a more detailed version, incorporating details about “solid light” was communicated to Mr Bigelow’s organisation.”

BAASS involvement with the MUFON CMS

During the Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies (BAASS) era, circa 2009, BAASS paid MUFON for access to the MUFON CMS database. This is well covered in the following articles:

“A tale of three BAASS field investigations.”

“Douglas S. Kurth and the BAASS/MUFON relationship.”

“BAASS wanted to analyse physical evidence.”

“The Pentagon UFO Program’s secret partner.”

“Breaking the silence: AATIP’s secret partner speaks.”

MUFON State Director's Handbook

Someone uploaded a copy of the MUFON State Director's handbook to Scribd This version is the 7th edition, dated 2 April 2018. There are a number of sections relating to the CMS namely:

Section 14.05 - general CMS

Section 22.00 - CMS disposition terminology

Section 40.00 - CMS administrators monitoring of cases, giving details of editing, deleting and monitoring of cases in the CMS. Includes how CMS auto-deletes some cases.

What research is undertaken?

It is one thing to collect sightings data, but another thing is to use it for some worthwhile purpose. I looked to see what I could find on the research side of the CMS. I found two pieces of work by Kristen Ann Winslet:

1. The first was dated 3 January 2010 when Winslet was a MUFON Field Investigator; the State Director for New Jersey and a STAR Team SIP member. It consisted of a memo to the MUFON Board of Directors re MUFON CMS Closed Case Data. Attached to the memo was a set of 84 charts detailing:

- Global Closed Case History by disposition, for the years 2001-2009

-  MUFON CMS Closed Case History for each US state, and various other countries, by disposition 2001-2009.

2. The second was dated 28 February 2018 and provides an Excel spreadsheet with CMS data extracted for the years 2001-2017 with tabs for:

- Charts and covering letter, including most experienced field investigators by disposition; Vallee classification by disposition; closed case history per state; closed case history per country; 

- Resolution by geography

- Cases listed by each field investigator

- Summary of Vallee classification.

Who is Kristen Ann Winslet?

Her LinkedIn profile  states that she was a volunteer MUFON data scientist and field investigator from November 2007 and a research analyst for MUFON since August 2017 to date.

Professionally, she is currently employed in the IT Business Operations, Strategy Planning: IT Portfolio Cost Management for Verizon, since August 2012. At the time of her 2010 paper for MUFON she was employed on Green Energy programs with the Public Service Electric & Gas.

Best cases from CMS

In terms of research, I also found that the MUFON website contains an area "Top MUFON UFO Cases."

Here, can be found the best cases from the CMS for the years 2012-2017, as determined by the MUFON Science Review Board. The link shown for the SRB does not work. 

In conclusion

I would welcome hearing from any blog reader who may be able to provide further details of the MUFON CMS database, and specifically to what research purposes it has been put?

1 comment:

  1. The "databases" used with respect and dignity have multiple uses.
    The first UFO NGOs such as NICAP, DUFOS, EARUFO, had random databases, usually on paper, the same happened with MUFON until computing appeared.
    Dissident MUFON members themselves accused the NGO of accumulating data prohibited by law, but this was never brought to trial, unless it is known.
    The truth is that the contribution of "data" to the database comes from 2 sources: the members of the NGO and the witnesses of cases, the mere provision of personal data and testimonies of cases is an explicit authorization for its use by part by MUFON.
    The problem is when the data is provided to third parties without the authorization of who provided it, but this happens all over the world with all organizations with more than 2 members.
    The point is that data management requires data specialists, thus the utility increases exponentially with respect to the members and the witnesses who provided them.
    This is something that MUFON has not seen yet, although there is a group of its members who work with other global organizations learning methodologies and mechanisms that can serve themselves as members in data management, and in the future they will surely propose it to MUFON as an organization.
    The certainty that they have the crossing of data in a scenario where half of the truth / reality is known, and the other half is unknown, is critical and important.

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