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Hot topics at this year’s OpenAthens conference

AvatarBy Beth Rutter
Category - Blog

Wednesday 14th February 2018

The theme for this year’s OpenAthens conference is ‘championing the user’. We’ve selected this theme because it is central to everything that we do at OpenAthens. Our core objective is to deliver the best possible user experience through federated single sign-on to digital content and services.

We want to bring together experts from across the tech, publishing, academic, research and healthcare fields to hear their thoughts on a range of issues that fall under this bracket.

Here are just a few of the key topics that will come under the spotlight:

Protecting user data and privacy

Sweeping changes to rules on holding and processing personal data which come into effect with the EU’s GDPR in May has focused attention on this vital area of identity and access management (IAM). Conference delegates will get an overview of the key regulatory changes. They will hear how online publishers and identity providers should respond with a full explanation of what OpenAthens has in place to ensure GDPR compliance.

The conference will also touch on the ongoing debate about how best to preserve privacy. Ongoing Resource Access for the 21st Century (RA21) work is looking at optimising protocols across key stakeholder groups, to build a seamless user experience in scientific communication. This includes looking at increased security for management of personal data and protecting the privacy and security of user communities.

Read our GDPR blog post to find out more about forthcoming GDPR changes and what OpenAthens has in place.

Improving the online experience

As an IAM expert, ensuring a seamless user journey for individuals wanting to access subscribed content is key to our offering. Users must be able to access the content they want quickly, easily and securely from anywhere, at any time.

To create the best possible user experience requires user centred design which puts the needs of the user, their purpose, aims, context and behaviour at the heart of how any system is set up. To do this effectively requires a deep understanding of the users and their environments. Any design should also be user tested throughout the development process and refined accordingly.

Delegates will hear about the most effective user focused design and testing strategies for digital content providers and how it can transform services for the end users.


Personalisation is the key to encouraging users to engage more with online content. Designing and building the optimal experience for different groups and individuals is a major focus for publishers, platform providers, and other teams that deliver content. Thanks to rapid advances in technology, it is now possible to achieve a level of personalisation for huge numbers of individuals in a way never previously possible.

Content providers can record and remember the preferences and behaviour of individual readers so they can easily return to previous searches and offer relevant suggestions. To help readers access relevant content, publishers have developed services that:

  • Provide quick and easy access to past search results
  • Offer recommendations based on their browsing history and interests
  • Allow readers to mark up the content they are accessing

The conference will look at why federated single sign-on (SSO) solutions such as OpenAthens offer far more scope for effective personalisation than IP-based access. The benefit of SSO is that it can track each individual reader, while protecting their identity, and thus offer recommendations based upon the specific user’s search history. In contrast, IP-based access tracks users back to the organisation or team through which they have been given access, but not to the individual.

Read our recent blog post to find out how you can enable personalisation through SSO.

Protection of digital content

Protection of digital content is absolutely vital for a successful and trusted IAM solution. Publishers need reassurance that their valuable content is safe, particularly when federated access is being offered in countries where copyright infringement is a widespread problem.

So, we will look at how organisations can best protect digital content while giving those that need it access. With a wide range of security features, OpenAthens upholds internationally recognised information security standards. When data is sent between the database and applications in a user’s browser it is encrypted. Crucial data on the database is also encrypted and stored behind a firewall.

There are mechanisms in place to rapidly identify potential data security breaches or cyber-attacks. With continual monitoring in place, the system will alert the support team the moment a security risk or unusual behaviour is detected. This could be something as simple as the same login being used from different geographic locations within 24 hours or a user attempting to download vast quantities of data in a short time period.

The facilities and features in OpenAthens are set up to spot early warning signs so action can be taken before security breaches happen. Our team will be able to share ideas and advice on how best to protect content.

This is just a taster of what will be covered on Thursday, 22 March. Visit our conference webpage to find out more about the topics and sessions on offer.

We look forward to seeing you there.

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