Federated access management lets staff and students at universities, colleges and schools (identity providers) use their local login accounts to access on-line resources and services provided by publishers and data providers (service providers). This Single-Sign-On architecture simplifies the technical implementation of content licensing for publishers and educational institutions. The UK Access Management Federation for Education and Research (UK federation) facilitates federated access management in the UK and is operated by EDINA and JISC Collections. The UK federation is a trust network, service providers can trust the identity providers to authenticate a user and the identity providers know to whom they are releasing users’ personal information. The UK federation manages and publishes metadata that allows the identity providers (Universities and Colleges) to connect securely to service providers (publishers and data providers).
The UK federation had its origin in the SDSS federation developed at EDINA from April 2004 to March 2007. It is now the largest academic federation in the world and is still growing with more than 900 member organisations over 1,400 registered entities (Identity providers and Service providers). The UK federation support team at EDINA manages the metadata that underpins it and supplies technical support to its members. The UK federation at EDINA hosts the Central Discovery Service which links the on-line publisher or data provider to the end-user’s institution. There are more than 500,000 HE and FE logins each month using the Central Discovery Service. Most of the identity and service providers in the UK federation use Shibboleth software provided by the Shibboleth Consortium, which was set up by EDINA and SWITCH, the Swiss academic network in 2011.
More recently, the UK federation has been investigating inter-federation with other access federations internationally. There has been a successful pilot with the Irish federation Edugate and the UK federation will soon be releasing production metadata containing UK and Irish entities. Inter-federation significantly increases the services available to staff and students at educational institutions and the potential customer base of registered publishers and data providers.