UK researchers set to benefit from easier access to digital services

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A new service enabling UK researchers to access their digital resources and applications through a single, federated sign-on has been launched by Jisc, the charity that provides digital solutions for education and research.

The Assent service enables simplified, seamless and secure access to the broad range of web and non-web services that researchers commonly need – from cloud, email and file storage services, through to desktop login, high performance computing (HPC) facilities and secure data communications.

Assent uses the same open standards and open source software that underpin the two leading federated access services in global education and research: eduroam, the world-wide single sign-on roaming service, and the UK Access Management Federation, which provides web-only single sign on. It works by combining these technologies to provide a powerful and flexible access management solution appropriate to the needs of research.
Jisc says there are significant benefits in adopting Assent for both institutions and their researchers. Institutions benefit by reducing the number of credentials issued to each user, greatly reducing the administrative burden and cost. User identities are managed by the users’ home institutions, reducing the need to issue credentials to users from partner organisations.

For researchers, using Assent means they are able to seamlessly access the digital resources and applications they need to do their jobs, wherever it has been made available by a participating organisation.

Josh Howlett, head of trust and identity at Jisc said: 'Many institutions will already be using federated access in some form. Jisc Assent extends the use of this approach to a greater range of digital resources and applications, allowing them to consume a federated identity at minimal cost and effort.

'We know this to be of significant interest to research-intensive institutions, who will often be working across various applications and data sources, and regularly collaborating with others to improve research outcomes. We have already received a number of enquiries from organisations hoping to implement Assent in their own operations.'

A number of research-intensive institutions and HPC facilities were involved in the pilot of Assent – which went under the name of Moonshot – including the University of Glasgow and University of Cambridge, multi-disciplinary research organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC), and UK synchrotron Diamond Light Source. Feedback has been extremely positive, says Jisc.

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