Migrating from message_data

message_ix_models coexists with the private repository/package currently named message_data. The latter is the location for code related to new research that has not yet been completed and published, data that must remain closed-source permanently, etc.

Over time:

  • All other code will be migrated from message_data to message_ix_models.

  • Code and data for individual projects will be moved from message_data to message_ix_models at a suitable point during the process of publication. (This point may vary from project to project.)

  • message_data may be renamed.

Using both packages together

This section gives some practices and tips for using the two packages together.

Always import via message_ix_models

The package installs MessageDataFinder into Python’s import system (importlib), which changes its default behaviour as follows: if

  1. A module message_ix_models.model.model_name or message_ix_models.project.project_name is imported, and

  2. This module does not actually exist in message_ix_models,

  3. Then the code will instead file the respective modules message_data.model.model_name or message_data.project.project_name.

Even when using code that currently or temporarily lives in message_data, access it like this:

# Code in message_data/model/mymodelvariant.py
from message_ix_models.model import mymodelvariant


This code is future-proof: it will not need adjustment if/when “mymodelvariant” is eventually moved from message_data to message_ix_models.

Use the mix-models command-line interface (CLI)

All CLI commands and subcommands defined in message_data are also made available through the message_ix_models CLI, the executable mix-models.

Use this program in documentation examples and in scripts. In a similar manner to the point above, these documents and scripts will remain correct if/when code is moved.

Don’t import from message_data in message_ix_models

The open-source code should not depend on any private code. If this appears necessary, the code in message_data can probably be moved to message_ix_models.

Use message_ix_models.tools and util in message_data

The former have stricter quality standards and are more transparent, which is better for reproducibility.

At some points, similar code may appear in both packages as it is being migrated. In such cases, always import and use the code in message_ix_models, making any adjustments that are necessary.

Migrate individual modules using git filter-repo

This section describes a general process for migrating (sub)modules of message_data or other repositories, private or public, to message_ix_models. Using this process preserves the commit and development history of code and data. This is useful for future development, and can contain important methodological and research insights that would be lost with a simple copy.

The process:

  • Uses the code in message_ix_models/util/migrate.py. This is an entirely stand-alone Python script.

  • Has been tested on Ubuntu Linux.

  • May need modification depending on the code to which it is applied.


  • Install git lfs.

  • Install the migrate optional dependencies for message_ix_models:

    $ pip install message-ix-models[migrate]

Read through all the steps before starting.

  1. Create a temporary directory:

    $ mkdir tmp
    $ cd tmp

    This directory will hold new clones of both repositories. We use new clones to avoid interacting with local settings, uncommitted (ignored) files, or history from other work, and so we can safely delete an incomplete migration and start again.

  2. In the temporary directory, run:

    $ python -m message_ix_models.util.migrate step-1

    This copies the migrate.py module into the temporary directory from (0).

    Edit the file, particularly the variables SOURCE, TARGET, and BATCH. Use the section “Using git filter-repo,” below, and comments in the file as a guide to the necessary changes.

  3. Run:

    $ python migrate.py step-2

    This step:

    • Clones the source and target repositories into directories with names like source-a1b and target-2c3.

    • Fetches all available Git LFS objects associated with any commit in the source repository. These are needed as the history is replayed in the next step.

      If the source repository is message_data, this will download up to 6 GB of data from GitHub, so it can be slow. The source-* directory is not modified during the rest of the process, so if you do not modify it, this step will not need repeating.

    • Creates symlinks pointing from target-*/.git/lfs/objects/… to source-*/.git/lfs/objects/…. This makes it appear as if the LFS objects are locally stored and available to the target repo.

  4. Run:

    $ python migrate.py step-3

    This step:

    • Connects the two repos together, with the target repo seeing the source repo as a Git remote. (Note that in Git terminology, ‘remote’ does not necessarily mean “on another machine”. In this case, the remote is just located in a different directory.)

    • Fetches the source branch.

    • Rewrites the source branch history according to the rules in BATCH.

    • Writes a file rebase-todo.in to be used in the next step.

  5. Prepare for git rebase.

    Make a copy of the file rebase-todo.in—for instance, rebase-todo.txt—and open the copy. This file contains a list of commands for the rebase. You can edit this list before using it in step (5); if needed, restore the list by making a fresh copy of the original.

    To help with this, duplicate-messages.txt contains a list of identical commit messages that appear more than once in the history. These commits may—not necessarily—be indication of a non-linear history. This can occur when branches with similar commit names but different contents are merged together (despite our best efforts, this sometimes happens on message_data).

    Some changes you can make to rebase-todo.txt:

    • Remove lines for duplicated commits, per duplicate-messages.txt. This avoids commanding git to apply the same changes more than once, which can lead to conflicts. You could:

      • Keep only the first of two or more occurrences of duplicate commits.

      • Keep only the last of two or more occurrences of duplicate commits.

      • Use any other strategy to minimize conflicts.

    • Remove lines for merge commits. These are ignored by git rebase and git filter-repo, but you may need to manually skip them if you do not remove them at this step.

    • Add blank lines and comments to help yourself read the history.

  6. Perform the rebase. Run the following; choose any name you like instead of migrate-example

    $ git checkout -b migrate-example source-branch
    $ git rebase --interactive --empty=drop main

    Replace the to-do list for the rebase with the one prepared in step (4).

    • One way to do this:

      • In the editor that opens, delete everything.

      • Paste in the contents of rebase-todo.txt.

      • Save the file and exit.

    • Another way:

      • Insert a single line with the text break at the top of the existing TODO list.

      • Save the file and exit. The rebase will begin, but stop before picking the first commit.

      • Open the file .git/rebase-merge/git-rebase-todo in a different editor; replace its contents with rebase-todo.txt, and save.

      • Run git rebase --continue.

    The interactive rebase begins.

    • Resolve any conflicts that arise in the usual way. After resolving, perhaps run:

      $ git add --update && git status
      $ git rebase --continue
    • If you see a message like the following:

      error: commit 47db89c0128e6edf19ebb9ffbcea1d5da4d25176 is a merge but no -m option was given.
      hint: Could not execute the todo command
      hint:     pick 47db89c0128e6edf19ebb9ffbcea1d5da4d25176 Merge pull request #123 from iiasa/foo/bar
      hint: It has been rescheduled; To edit the command before continuing, please
      hint: edit the todo list first:
      hint:     git rebase --edit-todo
      hint:     git rebase --continue

      …follow these instructions:

      1. Give git rebase --edit-todo.

      2. Delete the line/command related to the merge commit.

      3. Save and exit.

      4. Give git rebase --continue.

    • If many conflicts occur, you may run:

      $ git rebase --abort

      Then, return to step (4) to adjust the list of commands, considering the history and apparent conflicts.

  7. Push to iiasa/message-ix-models:

    $ git push --set-upstream=origin migrate-example

    …and open a pull request.

    This can be initially a “draft” state, until you complete step (7). The pull request is partly to help you diagnose whether the above steps produced a reasonable result. The branch can also be inspected by others, for instance to compare it to the source repository.

  8. Clean up.

    This may be done directly on the branch from (6). However, a better option to create a secondary branch from the head of (6), named like migrate-example-tidy, and make clean-up commits to this branch. Create a second pull request to merge this manual clean-up branch into the branch from (6). This way, if steps (1–6) need to be repeated, a new history can be force-pushed to migrate-example, and then the manual clean-up branch can be rebased on the newly updated migrate-example branch, with little disturbance.

    Push further changes to the clean-up branch to:

    • Modify imports and references.

      For example, when migrating message_data.model.foo, statements like:

      from message_data.model.foo.bar import baz

      …must be modified to:

      from message_ix_models.model.foo.bar import baz

      Similar changes must be made to intersphinx references in the documentation.

    • Adjust data handling.

      For example, usage of private_data_path() to locate data files must be modified to package_data_path() if the data files were moved during the migration. Tests can help to ensure that these changes are effective.

    • Address CI checks. For example:

      • Add tests, or exclude files from test coverage.

      • Lint files, or exclude files from linting.

    It is important to avoid scope creep: do not try to include large modifications, improvements, or refactoring of code in this step. This will greatly increase the complexity of the task and make it harder to complete. Instead, do these things either after or before migrating the code.

  9. Invite review of your PR(s).

  10. Merge the clean-up branch from (7) into (6), and then (6) into main.

To restart at any time, run python migrate.py reset from your temporary directory to delete the clone of message_ix_models and all other changes from steps (3–5). Then begin from step (2).

git filter-repo features and options

git-filter-repo (docs) is a powerful tool for rewriting git history. It has many command-line options and features.

migrate.py and BATCH use these features to, in particular:

  • Move code. For example, all commits pertaining to a file like message_data/model/foo/bar.py are preserved, except they now appear to describe changes to message_ix_models/model/foo/bar.py.

  • Move data. Data is moved from the unpackaged, private, top-level data/ directory in message_data, to the packageable message_ix_models/data/ directory. There are further considerations; see Data, metadata, and configuration and below.

  • Discard everything else relating to message_data (or the source repo), especially other code and data that are not going to be migrated, according to your settings in step (1).

  • Partly clean up commit messages that do not match the code style, for instance by ensuring they start with a capital letter.

These commands are batched when they cannot be given simultaneously in a single call to git filter-repo.

Below are some examples:

Listing 1 migrate.py config section, used in PR #107
S = SOURCE = RepoInfo(
    url="[email protected]:iiasa/message_doc.git",

T = TARGET = RepoInfo(
    url="[email protected]:iiasa/message-ix-models.git",

        args=["--invert-paths", "--path=doc/_static/combined-logo-white.png"],
Listing 2 requirements.txt, used in PR #107
regex:^Citation$==>Edit citation
Listing 3 migrate.py config section, used in PR #88
S = SOURCE = RepoInfo(
    url="[email protected]:iiasa/message_data.git",

T = TARGET = RepoInfo(
    url="[email protected]:iiasa/message-ix-models.git",

# Path fragment for using in BATCH
MOD = "water"

    # Use --path-rename to rename several paths and files under them:
    # Use --message-callback to rewrite some commit messages, capitalizing the first letter.
            # Add or remove lines here as necessary; not all modules have all the following
            # pieces, and some modules have additional pieces.
            # Module data.
            # Module code. The "/model/" path fragment could also be "/project/", or removed
            # entirely.
            # Module tests.
    # Use --path to keep only a subset of files and directories.
    # This has the effect of discarding the top-level message_data and data directories,
    # keeping only message_ix_models. This operates on the paths renamed by the previous
    # command. It would be possible to combine in a single command, but we would then
    # need to specify the *original* paths to keep.
            # Can add lines to keep other files, for instance:
            # f"--path=doc/{MOD}/",
    # Use --invert-paths to *remove* some specific files, e.g. non-reporting test data.

After migrating

Some follow-up actions that may or should take place after the migration is complete:

  • Discuss with the message_ix_models maintainers about releasing a new version of the package, so that the code is available in a released version.

  • Open (an) additional issue(s) or PR(s) to record or immediately address missing items—for example, documentation, tests, or small enhancements for reusability—that were identified during the migration.

  • Open a PR to remove the migrated code from message_data. This is important because future development should target the code in its new home in message_ix_models; other projects, workflows, and colleagues should be discouraged to depend on the old code in message_data, where it may not receive updates.

    The simplest way to do this is to delete the code entirely and adjust any other code that imports it to import from the new location in message_ix_models. For temporary compatibility, it is also possible to use message_data.tools.migrated().


git and git filter-repo are both flexible programs with plenty of power and flexibility. The above is one suggested way of using them to achieve a clean, history-preserving migration, but there are alternate options.