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Gravitational Wave Research, Federation and TIER

Feb 19, 2016, by Emily Eisbruch
Tags: COmanage, Grouper, InCommon, Shibboleth, TIER

By Klara Jelinkova, Vice President & CIO of Rice University and chair of the TIER Community Investor Council

On February 11 scientists from the Laser Interferometer Gravity Observatory (LIGO) announced the discovery of gravitational waves a hundred years after Albert Einstein predicted their existence. This is an extraordinary finding, but the magnitude of the collaborative work was also astonishing--the published report in Physical Review Letters listed more than 1,000 authors. 

For the trust and identity community, one of the important aspects of the story is LIGO’s role as an early adopter of federated identity (having joined InCommon in 2011), and its use of two key Internet2 community-sourced software initiatives, Grouper and COmanage. These moves helped LIGO to quicken the pace of getting researchers access to the tools they need. LIGO was also a key driver behind the creation of the global Research and Scholarship (R&S) Category for identity management federations. This allows an identity provider to make one policy change and send the necessary information (attributes) to an entire category of services, providing painless onboarding of new qualifying services and quick access for researchers and faculty.

We need to use LIGO as an example for improving our processes and policies. When more than 1,000 faculty members and scientists from dozens of organizations require seamless access to federated scientific tools and instrument, we need to adopt sensible policies and get IT out of the way. The Research & Scholarship Category is one way to do this -- essentially releasing directory information to research and scholarship services.

TIER's first release aims at making scientific collaboration easier by incorporating appropriate policy recommendations and ensuring distribution of the most recent stable versions of the software. Research universities have long led the support for research and federated identity. LIGO is a perfect example of how significant scientific projects span not only campus boundaries, but also national borders. The first TIER release in April will help us continue this leadership role.

In the meantime, the TIER Community Investor Council asked TIER investors to:

  1. Ensure your campus has upgraded to version 3 of the Shibboleth Identity Provider. The end of life of Shibboleth IdP version 2 will come July 31, 2016. Upgrading now will position TIER investors as leaders in this effort, and has the very tangible result of helping you avoid inevitable security concerns related to the end of support for Shibboleth 2.x.
  2. Make support for the Research & Scholarship Category a reality on your campus. As noted above, this involves releasing basic directory information to this group of essential collaboration services. As LIGO can tell you there is nothing more frustrating than having to provide secondary identity or accept a social identity for a researcher located at an InCommon institution.

Below are listed some of the upgrade resources. The Internet2 team is ready to answer any questions.

Needed resources for Shibboleth V3 upgrade:
Upgrade instructions:

Shibboleth wiki:

Upcoming InCommon Shibboleth Installation Workshop: May 19-20, 2016, at the University of Chicago