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15 November 2010
REFEDS celebrates Halloween with first meeting held in Atlanta
The new REFEDS logo

A review of REFEDS’ (Research and Education Federations) new organisational model and progress made on various work items were the main topics addressed at the first REFEDS meeting held outside Europe. Participants from all over the world attended this meeting, held on 31 October in Atlanta and hosted by Internet2 in conjunction with its Fall Member Meeting.

The high level of interaction during the meeting clearly indicates the significant interest in growing REFEDS globally. Under the new REFEDS model, additional funding has been provided to REFEDS by some of its participating organisations to more assertively pursue and complete its deliverables so that REFEDS will become a stronger voice for e-identity federations in the research and education community. This is especially important when talking to different target communities such as service providers, standards bodies and identity management working groups.

“The strength of REFEDS is in its cohesive community and its sense of common purpose,” explains Nicole Harris (JISC Advance) after completing her first meeting as subcontractor to REFEDS. “It was particularly gratifying to know that our colleagues in Europe were still happy to give up their Sunday to join us remotely and contribute to the meeting. This shows how REFEDS is a truly international venture.”

Improving the experience of logging in via federations was one of the core topics of the meeting. Members discussed the 'discovery problem', i.e., the way service providers find out to what institution or organisation a user belongs. The findings of the 'eduID' business case were presented as well as work done on the 'Embedded Discovery' by Rod Widdowson (Shibboleth Consortium). Chad La Joie (Shibboleth Consortium) and Lucy Lynch (Internet Society) presented the latest developments on 'user consent' in the Shibboleth and Kantara environments. Participants agreed that Level of Assurance (LoA) should be addressed in more depth by the REFEDS group, and should also take the work done by the Kantara Initiative Identity Assurance Framework into consideration.

Inter-federation developments were addressed by Valter Nordh (Gothenburg University), who reported on the planned eduGAIN service, now entering its pilot phase and by Ken Klingenstein (Internet2), who reported on PEER (Public Endpoint Entities Registry), a lightweight registration service for SAML metadata. PEER handles metadata differently than other identity federations, by completely separating it from discussions about policy and behavioural rules.

The mock-up of the new proposed REFEDS website was also presented for review during the meeting. It is anticipated that this new website will go live in early 2011.