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DRAFT - Research and Scholarship (R&S) Category Pilot


A growing number of Service Providers (SPs) supporting collaborative Research and Scholarship activities are joining InCommon. As is the standard practice in the Higher Education/Research world, collaboration on these sites involves knowing who the collaborators are: name, email, institutional affiliation. Unfortunately, the default Attribute Release Policies in place at most campus Identity Providers (IdPs) do not share any information with these sites without local review of the SP's purpose, governing policy, and operational practices.

This approach is simply not scalable to the thousands of campus IdPs and thousands of SPs supporting research and scholarship that we anticipate in the future. It is already a serious problem for the big Virtual Organizations and Research Labs; the hoped-for explosion of smaller collaboration sites housed in academic departments will not succeed with federation unless a scalable solution is developed.

InCommon is implementing a simplified and scalable approach to this problem through the specification of a "Research and Scholarship (R&S)" category for SPs. All InCommon SPs have already agreed to a set of practices governing how they manage and use personal attributes. To qualify for inclusion in the R&S category, SPs comply with an additional set of criteria that are designed to facilitate IdP policy decisions to release a controlled set of low-risk attributes to R&S SPs without local review for each SP.  InCommon provides metadata and technology tools to further facilitate automatic, but controlled, release of attributes to the R&S SPs, as well as aiding user support.

IDPs can simplify the management of their Attribute Release Policies by taking advantage of the R&S category. With a one-time addition to their default release policies they can specify a set of attributes to release to all SPs that are in the R&S category. This policy would apply to SPs that are added to the category in the future, without the IDP administrator having to make any changes.

This Research and Scholarship Category Pilot will include a small number of SPs and IdPs to test this approach, recommending modifications to the specifications described here, as appropriate.  The following are the participants in this pilot:

  • Service Providers
    • TBA
  • Identity Providers
    • TBA

What Are Research and Scholarship Activities?

[Tom Barton's text...]

Requirements for the R&S Category

Service Providers are already bound by the requirements of the InCommon Federation: Participation Agreement. For the purposes of R&S, they should pay particular attention to Section 9:

9. Respect for Privacy of Identity Information

Participant agrees to respect the privacy of and any other constraints placed on identity information that it might receive from other InCommon Participants as agreed upon between Participant and the InCommon Participant(s). In particular, Participant understands that it may not permanently store nor share or disclose or use for any purpose other than its intended purpose any identity information that it receives from another InCommon Participant without express written permission of the other InCommon Participant. Participant understands that the storing and sharing of resources is between the Participant and the InCommon Participant(s) and is not the responsibility of InCommon.

InCommon strongly recommends that Resource provider systems may cache temporarily identity attributes/credentials that are supplied by IdMs for operational efficiency or sequential, repeated authentication purposes within a given session or reasonable length episode. InCommon further recommends that any shared attributes/credentials should not be used for any purpose other than the original purpose or intent, and that such attributes/credentials should be destroyed at the end of the session or episode in which they are needed. This temporary storage of credentials shall not be deemed as permanent storage for the purposes of this Agreement.

In addition, Service Providers must comply with the following requirements:

  • The service enhances the research and scholarship activities of some subset of the InCommon community.
  • The service requires a subset of R&S Category Attributes. (See below.)
  • The service does not require out-of-band negotiation and/or contracts with IdPs.
  • The service conforms to a specific subset of the Recommended Practices published by InCommon.

R&S Category Attributes

InCommon IdPs are strongly encouraged to release the following attributes to R&S Category SPs:

  • name (displayName, givenName, surName)
  • e-mail address (mail)
  • user identifier (eduPersonPrincipalName, eduPersonTargetedID)
  • user role (eduPersonScopedAffiliation)

R&S Category SPs may request other attributes, but those requests are not likely to be honored by IdPs unless there has been prior agreement with the IdP Operator.  It is highly recommended that SPs use a minimalist approach to attribute requests.

Application for Inclusion in the R&S Category

To request membership in the R&S category, a site administrator for the organization owning the SP completes a web form asserting compliance with the criteria.  This initiates the following approval process:

  1. InCommon Staff review the requests, interacting with the submitter and the InCommon Technical Advisory Council (TAC), as needed.
  2. Assuming a positive review, the Staff provide a one-paragraph summary recommending approval of the request to the InCommon Steering Committee and the TAC, asking for comments within one week.
  3. Approval or rejection of the request is determined by consensus by the review participants.

When an SP is approved for the R&S category,

  1. An entity attribute is inserted into metadata.
  2. The new R&S SP is added to a web page listing members of the R&S category.
  3. An announcement is sent to the email list and/or the monthly newsletter.

Policy Considerations for Identity Providers

Identity Providers are responsible for protection of the privacy of their community members' identity attributes.  As such, they must be cautious when releasing those attributes to Service Providers.  As can be seen above, the R&S Category has been restricted to the release of low-risk attributes to low-risk Service Providers with high value.  Nevertheless, legislation such as FERPA, as well as local policy, may require further controls over attribute release by an IdP.  For example, some students may have opted out of attribute release under FERPA.

Mechanisms for implementing such controls are described below in "Technical Considerations." In the interest of facilitating collaboration and sharing of resources for as broad a community as possible, however, it is recommended that such controls be applied with as small a scope as possible.

Technical Considerations

The following documents describe the technical considerations for participation in the R&S Category:

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