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Key themes in publishing from the OpenAthens Customer conference

Louise EagleBy Louise Eagle
Category - Blog

Monday 28th November 2016

The inaugural OpenAthens customer conference took place in early November 2016, bringing together 120 individuals from across the information community to discuss some of the key challenges and opportunities around the provision of access to knowledge.

This post is a digest of a breakout session led by OpenAthens’ David Orrell (Systems Architect) and Phil Leahy (Service Relationship Manager), which explored many of the issues around identity and access management faced by the publishing community, including:

  • Considerations for corporate access to e-resources
  • Initiatives to modernise technology and user journeys
  • New functionality for a better user experience

Corporate access to e-resources: growing, yet complex
The management of enterprise subscriptions is of growing importance for business publishers, but it brings with it a series of challenges around the security of connections to electronic resources.

Many corporate customers have historically made use of direct connections to publishers’ databases rather than web-based authentication tools. These single-use connections were necessary to meet requirements for security and accountability of usage – but these are costly to set up and maintain, as they need developer resource to implement.

Many other solutions used in the academic sector are not fit for purpose: for example, IP authentication lacks the transparency needed for accounting purposes, and publisher-issued logins include the possibility for misuse.

The SAML-based approaches for identity and access management used in the education and healthcare sectors are one way to meet requirements for both security and transparency. These approaches, such as those used by OpenAthens, are flexible and scalable for the corporate market, as well as providing secure access to resources.

New initiatives
Resource Access for the 21st Century (RA21) is a new joint initiative between NISO and the STM Association. Announced at the Frankfurt Book Fair this year, with an inaugural session taking place during STM Week this December, RA21 proposes to develop standards that will enable seamless access to content. The initiative has several technology partners on board to help develop and implement new standards, including OpenAthens.

This is echoed in the upcoming second phase of development for OpenAthens Access, which will be focused on improving the user experience through increased accessibility via APIs and underlying technology updates. A beta of OpenAthens Access phase 2 is expected in 2017 as mentioned previously, and while it is intended to provide a more flexible approach to the current version of locally-installed OpenAthens SP, existing installs will continue to be supported for the foreseeable future.

New functionality
OpenAthens Access’ API-based approach to SAML connections includes a forthcoming embeddable discovery widget for publishers to include on their sites. This will enable some additional features that add value and convenience to the user experience, but that some publishers might not have the resources to produce themselves. These features include type-ahead search and geolocation-based functionality, with the benefit that their development and maintenance is managed centrally by OpenAthens – meaning publishers of all sizes can make use of them to enhance the user experience.

If you’d like to stay informed about ongoing OpenAthens development, register for our upcoming webinars. You’ll hear from the development team about new and upcoming features, and have the opportunity to ask any questions you might have about implementing them for your systems. And if you’d like to review the slides from the various conference sessions, you can find them indexed here.


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