A blueprint for accelerating research collaborations
International collaboration is a driving force behind innovation, but for cooperation to occur effectively researchers must be able to securely and efficiently share resources, data and knowledge. An EU-funded project is proposing technical solutions and guidance to achieve unprecedented international interoperability between research communities.
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The EU-funded AARC2 initiative has developed a novel blueprint architecture and software alongside technical and policy guidelines for a system that would enable researchers to access numerous services offered by research and e-infrastructures via a single login.
This reference architecture for authentication and authorisation infrastructures (AAI) has already been adopted by leading e-infrastructures, data networks and research communities across Europe and beyond. It supports standardisation efforts to help bring down barriers to efficient and effective scientific collaboration.
“The aim of AARC2 is to champion federated access to enable researchers to uniformly access as many resources as possible,” says project coordinator Licia Florio at GÉANT, the pan-European e-infrastructure for research and education. “By leveraging AARC2’s results, a research community can more easily implement an infrastructure for its own needs without having to reinvent the wheel, saving time and money.”
E-infrastructures are crucial to all disciplines of modern science, from particle physics and biotechnology to arts and humanities. They enable researchers around the world to work together online, share knowledge and discoveries, access powerful computing resources and maintain databases of research results for future reference.
A new collaborative project will typically set up a new AAI infrastructure, designing and developing the system from scratch to meet its needs. Only later do the researchers discover that their infrastructure may not be easily interoperable with other platforms.
The AARC2 initiative, building on its predecessor initiative AARC, addresses that challenge by providing research groups with a blueprint and guidelines for the optimal architecture that will ensure interoperability across platforms and with other networks as and when new needs or collaboration opportunities arise.
Opening up access to resources with a single login
The approach relies on federated access, a technology that allows the user of one platform to be able to access and use other platforms via a single login, ensuring user authentication, infrastructure security and data privacy in compliance with requirements such as the EU’s recent Global Data Protection Regulation. In short, the technology ensures the right researchers are granted access to the right tools and the right data.
“By streamlining implementation for all types of research communities, AARC2 is helping collaborative networks reduce costs in designing and deploying an AAI. It eliminates the need for investigating many technical solutions and for re-implementing policy compliance, security protocols and data protection frameworks,” Florio says. “By following the architecture blueprint and guidelines, research communities can much more easily ensure seamless resource sharing across different research collaborations and greatly improve user experience.”
In effect, researchers are able to focus on their research, not on developing the tools to enable collaboration.
Those benefits are already being experienced by a number of leading e-infrastructure providers and research collaborations. The AARC2 blueprint has been adopted by GÉANT, collaborative data infrastructure EUDAT, and EGI, the European Grid Infrastructure for advanced computing services for research.
Pilot implementations are also being tested by research groups in various disciplines, including the Lifescience Biomedical Cluster, the Worldwide Large Hadron Collider Computing Grid, Cherenkov Telescope Array researchers and the Earth Science Collaboration Clusters.
“The AARC2 project is facilitating adoption by making the blueprint and guidelines available to the worldwide scientific community for free,” Florio says. “The partners are also promoting uptake via training programmes as part of the project, and plan to support ongoing adoption and maintenance by potentially offering consulting services to research communities in the future.”