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James Boyd
Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research

Last modified: Wednesday, March 16, 2011

CACR, PTI researchers author InCommon roadmap for NSF Cyberinfrastructure

March 16, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Researchers from Indiana University's Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research and Pervasive Technology Institute have authored an innovative roadmap for organizations to utilize the InCommon Federation to link U.S. education and research communities for easier and more efficient collaboration and access to shared online resources.

William Barnett

William Barnett

Print-Quality Photo

"An InCommon Roadmap for NSF Cyberinfrastructure" will allow institutions and organizations to advance scientific initiatives through improved trust in a virtual world, said William Barnett, CACR associate director and principal investigator on the roadmap project.

InCommon, comprising more than 200 universities, government agencies, nonprofits and business partners, allows identity providers to give users single sign-on convenience and privacy protection, while online service providers control access to their protected resources

"InCommon allows institutions to more easily make their computational and data resources available for collaboration," Barnett said. "If IU and Purdue have a strategic collaboration, with InCommon we can easily provide the resources to support it, because we know everyone who is logging in is from Purdue. It's a very simple concept of accepting other institutions' identities. Though simple, it is very powerful in that it can establish the trust required to provide access to the basic tools necessary for science, to take on challenges of broader research problems with research teams, and to share data more effectively."

Without InCommon, users must rely on multiple accounts to access different resources, such as academic journals, grading services, research hubs, or grant administration systems. The lack of uniform login standards among partners often means potential collaborations don't happen as sharing becomes either too difficult or insecure. With InCommon, users have a single set of credentials to access different resources, saving valuable time and effort, and enabling more efficient partnerships. It becomes like carrying one virtual key as opposed to an enormous virtual keyring with different keys for different locks.

Von Welch

James Boyd

Von Welch

The year-long project of developing the roadmap was funded by the National Science Foundation, and was authored by Barnett, CACR Deputy Director Von Welch, Alan Walsh, and IU Pervasive Technology Institute Executive Director Craig Stewart. While the InCommon infrastructure has been in existence for a number of years, it has lacked a unifying guide to help support its effective use to support computational and collaborative research.

"The Roadmap provides concrete guidance to campuses and cyberinfrastructure projects utilizing InCommon, giving researchers the advantage of federated identity as a foundation for a national cyberinfrastructure," Welch said.

Jack Suess, chair of the InCommon Steering Committee and CIO at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, said the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and Department of Energy are three of the federal agencies that work closely with universities on research and have strong partnerships with InCommon.

"Many InCommon participants are interested in federating with these agencies and our university researchers appreciate the ability to use their institutional credentials to access a wide variety of cyberinfrastructure resources," Suess said. "This roadmap is an important policy and technical guide for deploying federated identity access for the National Science Foundation's distributed efforts. We appreciate the vote of confidence in what InCommon does."

The InCommon Roadmap for NSF Cyberinfrastructure is available for download in both full and abbreviated versions on the InCommon website.

The CACR is affiliated with the Indiana University Pervasive Technology Institute and the Indiana University Maurer School of Law.