NISO Publishes recommended practice on improved access to institutionally-provided information resources

(2 Jul 2019) The National Information Standards Organization (NISO) has published a new Recommended Practice on Improved Access to Institutionally-Provided Information Resources. This NISO Recommended Practice provides recommendations for using federated identity as an access model and improving the federated authentication user experience, arising from the Resource Access for the 21st Century (RA21) initiative.

Ralph Youngen, Co-Chair of the RA21 Initiative and Director, Publishing Systems Integration at the American Chemical Society explained the challenge RA21 addressed. “While users today expect always-on connectivity from any location, at any time, from any device, they are often faced with a confusing diversity of options to facilitate remote access to scholarly information resources. Launched in 2016 as a joint initiative of STM and NISO, RA21 sought to harness the existing identity federation infrastructure to improve the user experience for accessing scholarly resources while also protecting privacy. RA21 identified SAML-based federated authentication as holding the most promise to provide a robust, scalable solution for secure, remote access to scholarly resources.”

By fostering collaboration among stakeholders from academic institutions, corporations, identity federations, and scholarly publishers to conduct pilots and test prototypes, the research undertaken by RA21 has led to the development of recommendations offering guidance to Service Providers (SPs), such as publishers, tools vendors and research infrastructure providers, Identity Providers (IdPs), including libraries and institutional Identity and Access Management systems, and Identity Federation operators.

Athena Hoeppner, Electronic Resources Librarian at the University of Central Florida and Co-Chair of the NISO Information Policy and Analysis Topic Committee that oversaw the RA21 work, added, “RA21 greatly benefited from the breadth and variety of participants involved in its development, serving formally on the committees, and informally as reviewers and commenters, comprising a representative cross section of stakeholders and interested parties.  Its adoption is a boon for our users because it significantly improves the prospects for streamlined Single Sign-On across a wide swath of institutionally-provided services and benefits, including subscribed resources and shared research infrastructures, and promotes the use of secure, privacy-preserving authentication and authorization systems by institutions and service providers.”

The implementation of the RA21 recommendation will be led by a coalition of industry partners, called the Coalition for Seamless Access. The Coalition will implement the RA21 services in a beta phase beginning in the fall of 2019 to test the RA21 technology, assess its impact on the user experience, conduct reviews of its security and privacy implications and provide feedback on possible revisions to the recommendation based on implementation activity.

The NISO Recommended Practice for Improved Access to Institutionally-Provided Information Resources is available on the NISO website page at: https://www.niso.org/standards-committees/ra21.  More information about the RA21 initiative is available on https://www.ra21.org.

The original press release is here.