National Academy of Sciences

Results

  • Increased productivity
  • Content control shift from IT to staff members with preview and Web authoring interface
  • Timelier, fresher and richer content
  • Zero licensing fee model of open source software prevents vendor lock-in
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Straightforward integration with third party systems
  • Flexibility to grow the system as new requirements emerge

Challenge

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS), along with three other organizations — the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the National Research Council (NRC) — collectively form the National Academies. These organizations produce groundbreaking reports that have helped shape policies and advance the pursuit of science, engineering, and medicine. The Division on Earth & Life Studies (DELS) is one of six subject area divisions that respond to requests for advice from the Federal Government, states, and foundations. The 12 program units, or Boards, within the division produce reports, which represent some of the most authoritative source of scientific information for the nation.

The DELS website (www.dels.nas.edu) is the gateway to manage the 12 Board sites. As the amount of information has grown, so have the challenges in managing its homegrown content management system. Struggling with broken functionality, patches were added, making the system difficult to maintain and secure. It lacked the Web-publishing tools necessary for staff to produce fresh content and had no authentication system or user permissions in place. Plus, there was no way to maintain accountability.

DELS need for a robust Web content management (WCM) platform to more effectively portray the organization in an efficient manner while leaving room for future growth.

Solution

DELS decided on using an open source solution to avoid vendor lock-in. After evaluating multiple products, Alfresco emerged as a clear choice due to its ease of use, user-friendly interfaces and robust functionality.

DELS selected Alfresco Platinum Partner, Rivet Logic to implement and customize Alfresco to meet their objectives of giving content editors the freedom to publish their own content without IT assistance, while maintaining a level of user accountability.

Leveraging Alfresco with Crafter Rivet, an open source WCM application developed by Rivet Logic, DELS has complete editorial control without compromising quality and performance of its sites. Crafter Rivet offers a powerful content delivery framework and provides seamless integration with content published from Alfresco, along with additional functionality such as caching, searching, SEO, and real-time in-context preview.

Using a decoupled content delivery approach, in which the content management and delivery are separate, offers DELS the flexibility to use a presentation-tier framework of choice. Benefits of this approach include strong support for multi-user content production, rich and flexible content modeling, multisite and multichannel publishing, and better scalability and performance. It produces standards compliant XHTML / CSS and provides built-in support for SEO and Web analytics.

Rivet Logic worked to develop two applications — Aetos, a database driven Grails application internal to NAS, which pulls data from various external sources; and DELS, the public facing Web application which reads and merges data from both Aetos and Alfresco. Aetos is the content repository that houses core information about Academy reports with data fed from external systems. Users have the ability to edit the information as well as put items through a workflow. Rivet Logic utilized Mule Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) to enable content integration between Aetos and the backend systems from which it draws its data.

Alfresco serves as the main content repository for all Web presentation-tier content (e.g., page templates, UI components), Academy reports, and digital media assets. Content stored within Alfresco benefits from advanced versioning and metadata modeling. All data from Aetos and all content from Alfresco is then aggregated and displayed by the public facing DELS Web application, which was developed using the open source Grails application framework.

The Crafter Rivet enabled seamless integration with other systems, including ExactTarget for email marketing and Google Search Appliance (GSA) for website search. Through a Grails plugin, the DELS website provides federated search capabilities that allow different types of data to be searched through a single interface.

Conclusion

  • DELS content editors now have full control over the website without having to look to others for help.
  • DELS has streamlined the creation of new content with a time-efficient and easy-to-use solution.
  • User management has increase accountability by assigning the appropriate permissions and roles to specific user groups.
  • Staff members no longer need to know HTML or ask IT to help update Web pages.
  • The website is now seen as a tool to empower outreach activities due to its simplicity of use and flexibility.
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