NISO Publishes Recommended Practice on Improved Access to Institutionally-Provided Information Resources

Baltimore – July 1, 2019 – The National Information Standards Organization (NISO) has published a new Recommended Practice on Improved Access to Institutionally-Provided Information Resources. This NISO Recommended practice provides recommendations for using federated identity as an access model and improving the federated authentication user experience, arising from the Resource Access for the 21st Century (RA21) initiative.

Ralph Youngen, Co-Chair of the RA21 Initiative and Director, Publishing Systems Integration at the American Chemical Society explained the challenge RA21 addressed. “While users today expect always-on connectivity from any location, at any time, from any device, they are often faced with a confusing diversity of options to facilitate remote access to scholarly information resources. Launched in 2016 as a joint initiative of STM and NISO, RA21 sought to harness the existing identity federation infrastructure to improve the user experience for accessing scholarly resources while also protecting privacy. RA21 identified SAML-based federated authentication as holding the most promise to provide a robust, scalable solution for secure, remote access to scholarly resources.”

By fostering collaboration among stakeholders from academic institutions, corporations, identity federations, and scholarly publishers to conduct pilots and test prototypes, the research undertaken by RA21 has led to the development of recommendations offering guidance to Service Providers (SPs), such as publishers, tools vendors and research infrastructure providers, Identity Providers (IdPs), including libraries and institutional Identity and Access Management systems, and Identity Federation operators.

Athena Hoeppner, Electronic Resources Librarian at the University of Central Florida and Co-Chair of the NISO Information Policy and Analysis Topic Committee that oversaw the RA21 work, added, “RA21 greatly benefited from the breadth and variety of participants involved in its development, serving formally on the committees, and informally as reviewers and commenters, comprising a representative cross section of stakeholders and interested parties.  Its adoption is a boon for our users because it significantly improves the prospects for streamlined Single Sign-On across a wide swath of institutionally-provided services and benefits, including subscribed resources and shared research infrastructures, and promotes the use of secure, privacy-preserving authentication and authorization systems by institutions and service providers.”

The implementation of the RA21 recommendation will be led by a coalition of industry partners, called the Coalition for Seamless Access. The Coalition will implement the RA21 services in a beta phase beginning in the fall of 2019 to test the RA21 technology, assess its impact on the user experience, conduct reviews of its security and privacy implications and provide feedback on possible revisions to the recommendation based on implementation activity.

The NISO Recommended Practices for Improved Access to Institutionally-Provided Information Resources is available on the NISO website page at:  More information about the RA21 initiative is available on

About NISO

NISO, based in Baltimore, MD, fosters the development and maintenance of standards that facilitate the creation, persistent management, and effective interchange of information so that it can be trusted for use in research and learning. To fulfill this mission, NISO engages libraries, publishers, information aggregators, and other organizations that support learning, research, and scholarship through the creation, organization, management, and curation of knowledge. NISO works with intersecting communities of interest and across the entire lifecycle of information standards. NISO is a not-for-profit association accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). For more information, visit the NISO website.

About  STM

STM is the leading global trade association for academic and professional publishers. It has over 150 members in 21 countries who each year collectively publish nearly 66% of all journal articles and tens of thousands of monographs and reference works. STM members include learned societies, university presses, both subscription and open access publishers, new starts, and established players.  For more information, visit the STM website.

Final Report & Recommendations: RA21 Hospital Clinical Access Working Group

27 June 2019 – The Hospital/Clinical Access Working Group, co-chaired by Michelle Brewer (Librarian/Market Intelligence Manager, Wolters Kluwer), Don Hamparian (Senior Product Manager, OCLC), and Catherine Dixon (Product Manager, Wolters Kluwer), came together to understand and offer insight into the unique requirements around content access when in a hospital or medical clinic setting. The results of that work can be found in the white paper, “Final Report & Recommendations: Resource Access in the 21st Century, RA21 Hospital Clinical Access Working Group”.

This comprehensive report offers a concrete set of recommendations that will inform future work into the recommendations for improving access to scholarly content by the Coalition for Seamless Access.

RA21 Corporate Pilot report

The corporate pilot was started in early 2017, which included a survey of P-D-R (Pharma Documentation Ring) companies and confirmed the readiness of P-D-R companies for a federated identity management system.  The three key goals of the corporate pilot were:

* Improved user login experience at the publisher sites
* Provision for granular usage statistics reporting
* Ability to easily set up and maintain Single Sign On with multiple publishers.

Progress on these key areas are reported in this important output from RA21:

RA21 Corporate pilot final report – September 2018 (PDF)


RA21 Academic Pilot Technical Evaluation plus WAYF Cloud and P3W Security & Privacy Recommendations

RA21, the STM and NISO initiative which aims to identify best practices for adopting federated identity in order to streamline the user experience for access to subscribed content outside institutional IP domains,has completed the evaluation of two pilots (the WAYF Cloud and the Privacy Preserving Persistent WAYF(P3W)) offering alternative technical approaches to identity provider persistence.  The evaluation involved a detailed technical evaluation by the architects of both pilots and an in-depth security and privacy analysis by the Security and Privacy team. While both the cloud based and the alternative browser based pilots were successful in testing technical approaches to identity provider persistence, the browser based Privacy Preserving Persistent WAYF (P3W) solution has been selected to take forward and develop into an operational service.

The full evaluation and security review are included below, and serve as the first formal outputs of RA21.

WAYF Cloud and P3W Security & Privacy Recommendations – July 2018

RA21 Academic Pilot Evaluation – July 2018

Feedback and questions on the reports are welcome and can be submitted via our contact form.