Please note: opinions expressed are the individuals’ own, and may not reflect those of Ingenta or OpenAthens.
What do you feel is the ideal end-user journey to content?
BR: From the user’s point of view, an ideal access scenario might be that of open access resources, with no access management restrictions. This means users can download content easily without needing to log in, which is a much more straightforward journey [than for subscription content]. The friction-free experience users want is not completely compatible with the needs of publishers – copyrighted, subscription-based content will always need some kind of access control that can measure the impact of the product.
There are also a number of things that can go wrong with established IAM practices – for example, if an institution’s IP address range changes for some reason, and Service Providers are not updated, a user can be blocked from affected SP’s content despite having the right to access it. If the service is not managed properly, it can lead to problems – though there are always initiatives to solve issues like this.
PO: We talk internally about ‘layers’ of access: subscription or access rights that the user has based on their job, personal memberships, institutional holdings, and so on. The more layers of access provided to a researcher [through a single platform], the greater wealth of content they can access without hitting a paywall. Ultimately most people want the easiest, smoothest access pathway to content that they subscribe to as well as content that’s free to air.
What do you feel are the main challenges publishers and vendors face around identity and access management?
PO: One challenge in recent years relates to how content is licensed, and how organisations have structured themselves. For example, a lot of Western institutions have opened campuses in Asia. How you treat that – or how it’s seen by systems – is a grey area. Are international campuses considered a separate institution with a separate subscription, or are these students equivalent to remote users of the parent institution? It’s clearly not the same situation as having a campus in the next town
BR: There’s also the issue of common standards that can be applied for interoperability. With the number of access methods and standards on offer, it’s a bit like the old ‘format wars’ of the video tape market in the 80s, with the core issue that there are several competing standards, so the user is presented with several, often confusing, options.
PO: Another challenge is reporting in the face of increased user bases and different devices. Essentially you can never capture enough information about users, and someone will always find a combination of criteria they want to drill down into that isn’t provided in a standard report!
Reporting needs will likely evolve because of enhancements to how it’s possible to Identify users, and the ability to provide different ranges of access at the user level. We’re already seeing some examples of this – for example, in the case of evaluating journal bundles based on a sub-set of usage.
What do you see as the next steps or main opportunities around secure access to scholarly content?
PO: I think we’re seeing as the methods of authorisation & access control have developed, there’s more scope for models of access. There’s a greater focus on attributing usage to individuals, so perhaps we’ll see pricing structures developed even further beyond a flat institutional fee or FTE price. While authentication is an invisible facet of the user experience when it works properly, with the way it’s advanced it doesn’t have to be based on IP or broad-brush methods of access to content. There’s scope for enhancing the far other end of the chain: providing data at a user or departmental level when licenses and agreements are made to provide more tailored subscription packages.
BR: Another area we’re looking at is geotagging: when a user requests a resource, their location is pinpointed and providing they’re on campus, they have access regardless of device [without needing to be on the institution’s network].
Check out the other interviews in the series here: https://openathens.org/tag/industry-voices/
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