March 2012

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Back on 6th March we had a really excellent McShib day up in Edinburgh. Despite the event being really good, the plane managed to break my laptop on the way home which means I don’t have the presentations or the saved hashtags for the event so this is just going to be about thoughts I had from the day.

For me the most impressive presentation was from the RAPID project, which is looking at a practical implementation of RAPTOR at the University of Newcastle. As well as a very clever project logo, Richard and Chris gave a really excellent overview of the project, introducing a whole range of new ways of using RAPTOR for monitoring including PC Cluster room usage and application usage within the university.

Phil Smart from Cardiff was on hand to talk about WUGEN – a WAYFless URL Generator created by Cardiff University. WUGEN is still a pilot concept and JISC is in the process of analysing the final report and talking to the UK federation about a permanent home. There is a test instance of WUGEN available here, but please be aware that this is a TEST instance only and not a permanent service! Interestingly, such a generator came up as one of the favourite ideas for the federation administrative interface.

For my part, I was at McShib not only for the interesting content but as a plea for help in designed an administrative interface for the UK federation. This is what happens when you ask a bunch of McShibbers to brainstorm for you:

Andy's Team at Work

The session was excellent and came up with some really good ideas, that actually translated into something like a design proposal at the end of the day:

post-it notes are us

We’ve taken these ideas and created an ideascale from them – we would really like to see more of your ideas and thoughts to add to this…and hopefully more news on this soon. Generally though I’d be interested in feedback on whether you think an interface for the federation is a good idea – what do you think?

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If you don’t have time to read all of this blog, I will jump straight to the chase! If you work in a library, we would love you to fill out this survey. If you are a researcher, we would love you to fill out this survey. Both will help direct an EU study that is trying to improve access and identity management within research and for researchers.

If you have some time, read some more below!

In cooperation with TERENA, the University of Amsterdam and the University of Debrecen, LIBER is conducting a study which will explore the conditions for the implementation of a single European access and authentication infrastructure (AAI) for research information, or put more simply a ‘researcher passport’ that will allow European researchers to access all the research resources they need with one credential.

I’m really glad to be taking a small role within this study, as an expert advisor from the web SSO environment. Access and identity management is particularly complex for researchers in the current environment as they struggle with affiliation to host institutions, research groups, virtual groups, social groups – and the ongoing battle of just accessing the output of research in the traditional journal form. Throw this together with network access and the complexities of access to high-end computational resources – and it’s a bit of a mess.

This study comes directly on foot of the Riding the Wave report, in particular the recommendation to create a directive to set up a unified authentication and authorization system in order that researchers from any discipline can find, access and process the data they need. Within the context of our study, these data encompass not just primary scientific data, but all data that a researcher needs to conduct research.

The surveys asks you to think about what a ‘research passport’ (as proposed by the report) might look like.

The first survey is for libraries: We would particularly like institutional repository managers and librarians providing research support (e.g. subject librarians) to fill this survey in.

The second survey is for researchers. We would appreciate it if you could send this on to your researchers and/or put it on your library website.

The results of this survey will help form recommendations for a directive for the implementation of a single access and authentication system for research information.

This work is nicely completed by recent activity lead by CERN to examine the role of federations in supporting researchers. This group has produced a really useful paper, that I’d urge you to read if you are interested in the area.

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Although it’s been a while since the software hit v1, today sees the formal press release for the RAPTOR project – so I thought it would be worth a quick update.

RAPTOR is a usage statistics tool that you install locally. It basically reads authentication logs, and presents them back to you in a friendly way, enabling you to track usage and create management reports. It has broad applicability – at the moment it tracks Shibboleth and EZProxy logs, but the tool can be used for things like eduRoam, OpenAthens and the emerging Moonshot project as well.

One of the most frequent questions we are asked is, what is the difference between this and JUSP? My answer to this is typically that RAPTOR is broad and shallow in its analysis, where as JUSP is narrow but deep. RAPTOR only gives you information about number of authentications – but it can track ALL of your resources. JUSP gives much more detailed information about a range of actions carried out by specific users, but is restricted to a range of e-journal providers. Both tools are equally valuable to librarians and managers, and we hope in the future that more work will be done to help pool the information from both systems. There are also obvious synergies here for both tools in terms of the JISC KB+ project as well.

Another useful aspect of RAPTOR is that you can use it to compare back to other information held in your directory – so you can track usage by departments, or year, or even attainment grade if this information is stored.

I’d urge you to download the tool and have a play. The creators have assured me that the installation process is so simple that even I couldn’t break it….a claim I may well try out at McShib! Whilst mentioning McShib, it’s worth pointing out that we will be covering RAPTOR at the event and the RAPTOR team is also planning some workshops later in the year.

Another point worth making is that we are hoping that institutions will take advantage of the ‘aggregate up’ function in RAPTOR. This allows you to send appropriately anonymised data up to aggregation point, where it can be compared with other RAPTOR instances. We are looking at using this feature through an aggregation tool at the JISC Monitoring Unit, and it has the potential to give us clues for the first time on the national picture of resource usage that will help inform decision making on a much broader level.

Finally, the current JISC Digital Infrastructure call is looking for people to pilot and evaluate RAPTOR – so you can even get paid to see if this tool is valuable for your institution. That seems a pretty good deal to me.

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