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All about the user

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Star speakers from across the information industry will share their thoughts and expertise at the OpenAthens one-day conference taking place on 19 March at the America Square Conference Centre, London. Hot topics include user-centred design and experience, user consent and privacy, piracy and practical use of identity and access management.

Publishers have a genuine interest in ensuring scholarly content is accessed by those who need it. But they also need to run as a business and protecting valuable online content from abuse or misappropriation is part of that. They also want to know more about user behaviour, so they can improve and develop their services for on and off-site access. IP-based access can’t solve these challenges, and so the login was born.

But instead of helping users to get access to the quality content they need for work or study, the long and complicated authentication experience on publishing websites often leads users to give up and go elsewhere.

Keynote speaker, Dan Ramsden, creative director for user experience architecture at the BBC, will discuss how every design decision is an opportunity to make things easier or more difficult for users. Ramsden will share his three models for user-centred design and how he led a team of information architects at the BBC to put their audience at the heart of everything they do, making the BBC’s tools, content and experiences more meaningful and connected.

One of the first, and by far the biggest, hurdles users face is authenticating their session when they try to log in on a publishing website. Until recently, publishers’ main focus was around procuring, reviewing, editing, producing and publishing content, with very little thought about how users authenticate as part of the content discovery journey.

Users now demand a better experience when they are researching and that includes getting access to the valuable content their library or organisation subscribes to. Since the steep rise in UK higher education fees, this has become particularly true of the student experience. Dwindling library budgets are also having a major impact on which resources an organisation might subscribe to. An even greater driver is the growth of pirate sites, which steal content that academics and publishers work so hard to provide.  Concerns around the poor user journey to content and the threat of piracy has sparked the NISO and STM-led initiative Resource Discovery in the 21st Century (RA21).

At the conference, Todd Carpenter, executive director at the National Information Standards Organization (NISO), will discuss findings from the two-year RA21 project pilots to simplify the single sign-on user experience, share recommended practice and future plans to launch an ongoing service to support user identity management and individual access to content.

The OpenAthens team has worked closely with RA21 to inform the pilot work on improving the user journey and has developed its organisational discovery service alongside the project. Wayfinder enables users to log in by finding their home organisation through geo-location or by typing their organisation or email address into the search bar.

As an active participant of the RA21 initiative, OpenAthens provides Wayfinder for free to all publishers and library platform providers. Wayfinder is integral to OpenAthens’ federated single sign-on product for service providers, OpenAthens Keystone. Several publishers, including Karger, have implemented the hosted version of Wayfinder and new embeddable and pop-up versions are on their way. Delegates can hear more at one of the conference lightning talks.

OpenAthens has been working hand-in-hand with GALILEO virtual library to create a seamless user journey to its range of online resources. GALILEO is one of the largest library consortia in the US, serving around 2,000 educational organisations in Georgia. Plenary speaker Russell Palmer, assistant director at GALILEO, will showcase the team’s determination to fulfil its strategic vision and goals of facilitating knowledge and providing tools and resources for all its users to meet their lifelong learning needs.

On the upcoming conference, Palmer said: ‘I’m looking forward to exploring GALILEO’s strategic plan in greater depth at the conference in March and discussing how OpenAthens has become a significant part of this by enabling us to tailor our users’ experiences to provide them with the best possible journey, which we otherwise wouldn’t be able to do.’

The programme will feature a panel debate on whether piracy acts as a disruptor for positive change in the information industry. Speakers will include Emily Powell, knowledge and information specialist at the College of Policing, Duncan Campbell, senior director of global sales partnership at Wiley, and Naomi Korn, of Naomi Korn Associates, specialists in copyright, data protection and licensing.

The library community generally talks about piracy purely as a threat to the future of the information industry. Some would say that piracy exists for the same reason as open access: to widen availability of valuable information. Piracy can also provide leverage when negotiating licensing deals, especially with some of the larger publishers. So, there is an argument that piracy could help trigger improvements which make it easier for users to access online content. The panel will discuss the key issues around this subject.

A thread that runs throughout the work of OpenAthens and the conference theme is the need to balance the needs of users, libraries and publishers. All three have different desires and interests but are mutually reliant on one another’s cooperation to build a successful eco-system that works for all. 

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