Scientific Schizophrenia

Now I’ve stammered my way through my TNC plenary session, I’m attending talks on the issues of trying to use federated identity to support science and research.

Bob Jones starts us off by talking about the changing nature of identity. He points out that his first electronic identity was given to him because of his work. This simply isn’t true anymore. Within the research space, the multiplicity of identity, source and ownership is truly complex.

Bob and many others have been working on a paper talking about the issues of using federated identity management for research, which is available from TERENA core.

What do they want:

    • a common policy and trust framework for IDM based on existing structure.
      unique electronic identities authentication in multiple administrative domains, across national boundaries.
      community defined attributes to authorise access to digital resources.
  • The group is making recommendations to as many people as possible including research communites, technology providers and funding agencies. It is interesting to note that the group has highlighted the importance of a risk analysis around the study – focusing on the need to get buy in from security staff within organisations. Other factors include communities that are using data that is so sensitive they have an ethics committe that sets who can have access. Sensitive data is also going to drive the use cases for different assurance profiles.

    One of the points raised in discussion was whether we need an eScience federation of SPs to help us deal with some of these questions. What would the future of our work look like if we moved to such a model?

    The REFEDS group is already considering how best it can support the recommendations in this paper, as is the study team leading the EU study on AAA for scientific data and information resoures.

    Next up is Jim Basney talking about CILogin that is looking at the problem of getting small numbers of researchers from numerous institutions effectively authenticated and authorised using a federated approach. CILogin is using a SAML workflow to mash-up technologies such as Shibboleth, OAuth, X.509 certificates and a whole bunch of other stuff to achieve this. Using campus identities was important as CLLogin do not have the capacity to identity vet, and don’t want to put researchers through separate steps. This places a focus on development of assurance profiles at identity federations for this to work. Currently CILogin is working only with InCommon.

    Jim is starting to look at SAML ECP (Enhanced Client or Proxy) to look at solutions for non-web applications.

    Another thing CILogin is looking at is testing and monitoring to make sure that people don’t get error pages. For researchers who want to get work today, getting stuck at an unhelpful error page is not acceptable.