This story is from the category Services and the dossier Identity ManagementInternational cooperations

Working for Europe is Working for Switzerland.

With international Identity Management projects, SWITCH opens access for Swiss researchers to leading research projects.

Text: Ann Harding, published on 03.08.2016

Everyone knows CERN as a high profile research institute connected via Switzerland. Many of us will also have heard of the Human Brain Project, or SwissFEL at PSI that supports a wide range of research.
These are only three examples of many; the Swiss roadmap for Research Infrastructures outlines 23 Research Infrastructures of particular importance, most of which have both national and international significance. International research is supported at the highest levels in Switzerland. The Federal Government set out in their 2010 strategy for education, research and innovation that Switzerland should be at the leading edge worldwide. This continues to be a priority right to the end of the decade, underscored in the latest statement from the Federal Council for education, research and innovation for the years 2017-2020.

Internationality is an inherent part of academia, one in which we all participate and from which we all profit.

When Switzerland's affiliation with the European higher education area was threatened in 2014 following the results of the mass immigration initiative, over 30,000 individuals signed a petition to defend Swiss access to Europe, stating "Internationality is an inherent part of academia, one in which we all participate and from which we all profit."

If internationality is an inherent part of academia, and the numbers exist to show it, it also must be an inherent part of technical infrastructure supporting academia.

Since 2013, SWITCH has led service development activities for international AAI in a series of GÉANT Projects. At the same time, the Swiss edu-ID initiative (see also last paragraph of this text) has been growing from an idea to a prototype, and now to project implementations. As the latest GÉANT project launches, the Swiss edu-ID concept is center stage in next generation technology development for Europe, so we take a look back at how SWITCH working in GÉANT is SWITCH working for Switzerland.

Research services in SWITCHaai that join eduGAIN have a consistent experience in getting the attributes they need.

As it is clear that participating in global research is both financially and strategically important, SWITCH was among the founding members of the interfederation service, eduGAIN and is active in supporting campuses to join to enable their users to reach international research services. As eduGAIN involves new features, SWITCH is also at the forefront of both design and implementation. For example, SWITCHaai supports attribute release using the "entity category" method to scale policies and built this support directly into the core resource registry tool to make it easier for Swiss campuses to use as a "native" part of SWITCHaai.

This focus on automation and integration also provides a positive example for international federations who can then implement similar approaches. Several other federations also adopted or adapted the SWITCHaai-developed UApprove tool, including the US. In turn, this means that research services in SWITCHaai that join eduGAIN have a consistent experience in getting the attributes they need.

If we solve the problems only for Swiss infrastructure, we have not effectively solved them for Swiss users.

In the near future, SWITCH will also join SURFnet and other NRENs in piloting incident response handling in international federated identity. In late 2013, CERN came to SWITCH with a proposal to improve the security of federated identity and eduGAIN. As a leading GÉANT partner, SWITCH was able to bring these requirements to eduGAIN, and work together with CERN and other partners via REFEDs (a community of global research federations) and AARC (an EC funded project to develop an integrated cross-discipline AAI framework, built on production and existing federated access services.), to move this idea from concept to deployment. Since that small beginning, a set of processes and practices, known collectively as SIRTFI (Security Incident Response Trust Framework for Federated Identity) was created and deployment has begun in eduGAIN to help make global research and federated identity infrastructure even more secure.

And what about the international dimensions of Swiss edu-ID I mentioned before? The Swiss edu-ID as an evolution of SWITCHaai is very much at the early phases. With classic AAI, the integration of different countries happened over a long period and with interoperability across borders often implemented as an addition rather than a core part of the service. These problems, such as interoperability between technologies, scalable assurance, persistent identifiers etc. have been incorporated as requirements for the long term development of Swiss edu-ID. However, if we solve the problems only for Swiss infrastructure, we have not effectively solved them for Swiss users. SWITCH have therefore introduced the development of "eduKEEP" into GÉANT Trust and Identity development so that we can learn together how to do this kind of service across borders. Over the next years, we can evolve this concept together in Europe, moving from the current papers to a prototype and pilot that follows the path carved out by Swiss edu-ID.

 

About the author
Ann   Harding

Ann Harding

Ann has worked for SWITCH since 2007 and is currently in the AAI team. She leads the GÉANT project's Trust and Identity Development. Ann has gained third-level qualifications in Arts and Humanities and Computer Science and a Master’s qualification in Cultural and Media studies.

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