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July 02, 2009

Investigating the "Scott Cantor is a member of the IEEE problem"

The UK Access Management Federation and other similar initiatives worldwide provide a SAML-based single sign-on solution for access to online resources for the education and research community.  Typically, a user must sign-on to their home institution, using their local username and password, before being granted access to a remote online resource.  In the main, this prevents the user from having to remember a separate username and password for each online resource that they wish to access.  However, there is a perceived problem that some users have several affiliations (their university, their employer, the NHS, their professional body, etc.), each of which may grant access to a different set of online resources, and that, currently, online services are not able to make seamless decisions about which resources a given user is entitled to access because they lack knowledge about these multiple affiliations.

We have recently funded Simon McLeish at LSE to undertake an investigation into this area, commonly known as the Scott Cantor is a member of the IEEE problem. (Scott Cantor is lead developer of the Shibboleth software and an editor of the SAML 2.0 specification).  This investigation will try to discover the extent of this problem in UK HE - who is affected, how serious stakeholders perceive it to be, and what is expected from a solution - in order to inform future work in this area.

More information about this study can be found thru the project's Wiki.  As usual, the final report will be made openly available to the community under a Creative Commons licence.

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