Earlier this year the STM Association — a trade association for academic and professional publishers — started a project called RA21: Resource Access in the 21st Century. The project is a renewed approach to moving past network address recognition and proxy agents as a way of authenticating access to licensed content. I describe the RA21 effort in general on the Index Data blog and listed some of the potential impacts on the FOLIO project.
I attended an RA21 Project meeting last week and was struck by something that one of the presenters (I think it was Chris Shillum from Elsevier) said about the longevity of network address recognition. Paraphrasing, the utter simplicity of authenticating on-campus users with IP address recognition has slowed the development of solutions that enable off-campus access. I mean, it doesn’t get any easier than the black-and-white decision on the server end to determine if the request is coming from a recognized address. If it is, you’re in! If not, you’re presented with the option to pay money to view the article. What if we added a little bit of process for on-campus users to benefit access by off-campus users? Say we asked on-campus users to authenticate themselves with a campus user id and password before getting access. And say we made it easier by automatically sending users to their campus single sign-on system when we could. And say that when we couldn’t, we made the user experience of getting to their campus single sign-on system through consistent use of graphic design, wording, and page design by the content providers. That is what is envisioned for the RA21 project.