Scott's Workblog

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February 17, 2005

Back in Australia

I'm taking a little break from CETIS and working at Macquarie University here in Sydney on the MAMS project. MAMS (Meta-Access Management System) is tackling the thorny issues of federated authentication, authorization, single-sign on, and the likes. If you're familiar with LAMS (Learning Activity Management System), well MAMS is its less glamorous but fairly deep and interesting sibling.

My current project is to look at how federated search (that is, cross-collection searching) can operate within a trust federation, so that repositories which are not open-access can be searched.

The primary tool to apply to this problem is Shibboleth (with potetntially something like LID and SXIP for those without an affiliation to an education institution), which then needs to be integrated with common search technologies such as SRW, SRU, z39.50 and so on. The work on ECL (EduSource Communications Layer) in Canada seems especially useful in this context, as they have already been considering the use of Shibboleth with their search protocol.

As well as discovery of resources, one of the issues we want to tackle is authorization for using resources, preferably at the search stage so that users don't get a long list of resources they can't actually access when they click the links (which would get annoying very quickly). So there is a MAMS demo (presented last week at IDEA in Melbourne) where on the search results page the resources get a little tick or cross indicating whether the users' current persona/role can get access when you click the link.

This requires attribute exchange and policy management (in XACML) to do properly; for most resources this won't be needed, but for publisher's resources this is going to be a big issue, and being able to achieve it without the hassle of proprietary and/or heavily patented DRM solutions is a big incentive for us right now.

If you're interested in the MAMS project, the site is here.

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