Major publisher embraces federated access management
Elsevier has announced that its ScienceDirect service is now available through the UK Access Management Federation. Thousands of UK researchers and learners will benefit from ScienceDirect implementing Shibboleth, one of several federated access management technologies which use devolved authentication by the user’s home institution.
This development means that users will no longer have to remember a separate username and password to access ScienceDirect, which provides more than a quarter of the world’s scientific, medical and technical information online. Instead, they will simply log-on using their institutional ID. With more and more service providers choosing to use federated access management technology, this can only mean good news for users. "Federated authentication technologies like Shibboleth provide major improvements in this area, and extensive collaboration with libraries, institutes and other information providers is essential to successfully deploy those technologies."
Federated access management systems will eventually replace older authentication systems such as IP authentication and Classic Athens, providing a more flexible and secure way for users to access subscribed resources, anytime and anywhere (see the UK Access Management Federation website).
The user’s institutional ID is linked to so many other resources and services such as email which may contain personal or confidential information, that they are less likely to leave a session without logging-out, writing down their username and password or passing it onto another person, thus protecting resources from piracy and misuse.
Personalisation is becoming increasingly important to users and Shibboleth has the functionality to better adapt services to the needs of its users, without releasing the user’s identity.
Ale de Vries of Elsevier said that the publisher’s implementation of Shibboleth had helped in its wider efforts to engage with its user community: “As a publisher of a vast body of research literature, we feel we have the responsibility of making access to ScienceDirect as easy and transparent as possible. Federated authentication technologies like Shibboleth provide major improvements in this area, and extensive collaboration with libraries, institutes and other information providers is essential to successfully deploy those technologies. We’ve been working with the library community on the deployment of Shibboleth since the very early stages, and we feel that that really contributed to having an open and collaborative relationship with our customers."
Although the UK is one of ScienceDirect’s largest customer base, many other countries are also adopting federated access management technology and establishing their own federations. It was therefore considered strategically important for ScienceDirect to collaborate with these countries in order to stay ahead of the game, says Ale de Vries. “We wanted to stay ahead of the wave so we started to look at supporting multiple federations and actively approached other federations to start partnership with them.’
For further information, please go to: UK Access Management Federation
An interview with Ale de Vries about Elsevier’s implementation of Shibboleth will be made available shortly on a podcast.