Posts Tagged ‘UK Federation’

Access to Scopus and ScienceDirect

Posted on December 5th, 2012 by Paul Stainthorp

Our access to Elsevier Scopus and ScienceDirect has been improved: if you log in to either database via the Library website (, you can now set up an individual profile, allowing you to personalise your use of Scopus/ScienceDirect.

University of Lincoln students and staff can log in via the following links:

The first time you log in to either ScienceDirect or Scopus, you can set up your personal profile by clicking on “Activate Personalization” (in the top right-hand corner of the screen).

Once you have completed your individual profile, you can make use of features including:

  • Saved searches
  • Alerts
  • Saved lists
  • Grouped authors
  • RefWorks settings
  • Applications
To access and change these settings once you are logged in with your individual profile, click on “Settings” from the menu bar.
Screenshot from Elsevier Scopus

Help on configuring these options (for Scopus) is available on the Scopus training website.

Once you have a profile on either ScienceDirect or Scopus, you should be able to easily log back in at any point by clicking on the “Login” option in the top right-hand corner of the screen, and selecting “University of Lincoln login”.
Screenshot from Elsevier Scopus

Scopus is the largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed research literature. Scopus contains 47 million records (70% with abstracts) from 19,000 titles, and from more than 5,000 international publishers.

ScienceDirect is a leading full-text scientific database offering journal articles and book chapters from more than 2,500 peer-reviewed journals and more than 11,000 books. University of Lincoln students and staff have access to more than 2,100 full-text journal titles through ScienceDirect.

For help with using Scopus/ScienceDirect, please contact your subject librarian, or see the help websites for Scopus and ScienceDirect.

Technical note: this improvement in access has been made possible because both Elsevier databases are now accessible to University of Lincoln users via the UK Access Management Federation. This method of access allows us to associate Elsevier’s personal profiles with named individuals at the University.

We’ll be looking at integration between Scopus and the Lincoln Repository (for example: display of bibliometric/citation data on an EPrints record; automatic deposit of an author’s publications from their Scopus profile), as part of the REF preparation work and re-launch/upgrading of the Repository EPrints software.

New content on the e-journals A-to-Z

Posted on October 10th, 2012 by Paul Stainthorp

A few things that have been added/updated recently on the Electronic Journals A-to-Z. New and updated full-text holdings should shortly be reflected in Find it at Lincoln.

Brand-new e-journal packages and titles:

Holdings updated:

Authentication changes:


[1] I’ve not been able to find (by searching through Cambridge’s “Account Administrator” pages) a holdings file for our Cambridge University Press subscriptions—at least, not in a format that we are able to use in the A-to-Z—so the 40-odd titles in this package have been checked individually against the Cambridge Journals website. For that reason, I can’t guarantee that they are 100% accurate.

[2] The ScienceDirect Freedom Collection package in the A-to-Z knowledgebase does not have any holdings defined – libraries have to add their own custom holdings dates. I added ours this by ordering an “Electronic Holdings Report” from Elsevier’s admin tool, then downloading the A-to-Z holdings and using an Excel =LOOKUP() formula to match against ISSNs common to both spreadsheets. This is very fiddly and unfortunately will have to be re-done at intervals.
Screenshot from Elsevier

[3] Created using SwetsWise’s “Download Publication List” feature, re-formatted for the A-to-Z. Again, this has to be re-done at intervals as our Swets subscriptions change.
Screenshot from SwetsWise

[4] Links to HeinOnline journals/articles will now automatically log the user in via OpenAthens (federated access). However there are a couple of residual problems with these links: some of the OpenURL data for an individual article is not being passed through correctly (leading to the occasional error), and also the authentication does not work properly in non-Microsoft browsers – e.g. Chrome, Firefox. For the time being (while HeinOnline technical support address the issue) there is a note on the A-to-Z advising people to use Internet Explorer if they can. This is obviously not ideal.
Screenshot from the A-to-Z

Digimap login URL has changed

Posted on August 2nd, 2012 by Paul Stainthorp

A quick note – the login URL for Digimap – Ordnance Survey Collection has changed.

You might want to update your bookmarks, or grab the new address from:

Digimap provides access to:

“…maps and downloadable Ordnance Survey mapping data. Digimap allows you to view and print maps of any location in Great Britain at a series of predefined scales. Mapping data can also be downloaded and used with appropriate application software such as GIS or CAD. You will need to register with the site before you can access the data.”

E-resource URL hacking for fun and profit: how to build direct, reliable login links to journals

Posted on March 9th, 2012 by Paul Stainthorp

I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about electronic resources which make it difficult or impossible to create reliable deep-ish links to a particular bit of the resource from Library websites (usually our library catalogue or EBSCO’s e-journals A-to-Z/link resolver) – links which handle the authentication properly and take the user to the place they wanted to go in the first place, and which do so consistently.

Below is an example of the kind of process we go through to construct direct, reliable login links to the home pages of journals, when authentication is via Athens and/or the UK Access Management Federation (UKAMF). The process uses a facility the A-to-Z has to rewrite URLs according to a set of predictable rules, generating a new login link which is a function of the original URL.

N.B. it’s only possible to do this at all if the Athens/UKAMF authentication point for the journal has a predictable structure. If a login URL includes any randomly-generated or unknown elements which vary from journal to journal, then it can’t be generated by predictable rules. If the login URL can’t be expressed as a predictable function of the basic URL for the journal, then we won’t able to create a direct, reliable login link for the resource. Some providers rule themselves out at the first hurdle because of this, and it’s intensely irritating for me and even more so for users.

This whole process should get easier (and the end result less frustrating for users) when we introduce EZproxy as an additional authentication tool, but even so I would say that the ability to analyse, deconstruct, rewrite and generally hack URLs is one of the most important skills needed by anyone who works with e-resources.

Here’s how to build a direct, reliable login link via Athens/UKAMF. Bear in mind that the example given is one of the easy ones!

  1. The A-to-Z knowledgebase stores the basic resource URL; usually a link to the journal home page. In the kind of pseudo-markup tags used by the A-to-Z to rewrite URLs, this is identified as {URL}.
    • For example, the {URL} of the e- journal Food Science and Technology International is:
  2. First we visit the journal home page at {URL} and hunt around until we track down a reliable Athens or WAYFless UK Federation login URL. Often we look at other libraries’ web pages and/or UKAMF guidelines for inspiration.
  3. Determine whether the login URL is indeed a predictable function of {URL}. If it isn’t; you might as well stop at this point!
    • E.g. (this one goes via Athens, and is predictable):
  4. Often {URL} will need to be %-encoded one or more times (roughly; one level of encoding for each level of URL ‘nesting’: each time a parameter within the URL is itself another URL). Encoding can be expressed in the A-to-Z using the paired tags {startencode} and {endencode}. Now rewrite the login URL using A-to-Z markup tags:
    • E.g. (note the double encoding!):
    • Or (equally valid):
  5. Then, encode the whole login URL one more time, and prefix the whole thing with the standard Athens cookie-setting URL. This ensures that users are sent to the University of Lincoln ‘alternative login’ point, rather than the old-fashioned Athens username and password form.
    • Either:
    • Or:

It may look awful, but it works! (Usually.) It would be very useful if there were a place for A-to-Z customers to share (via a wiki, maybe) URL rewriting tips and examples. Some other useful links:

Authentication from E to Z

Posted on March 2nd, 2012 by Paul Stainthorp

As part of our authentication review project (more about which soon), ICT services are helping us to set up and configure EZproxy as a supplementary/complementary system for providing access to third-party e-resources. Several universities have identified EZproxy as a useful (albeit quick ‘n’ dirty – and not uncontroversial) tool for circumventing some of the problems of authenticating to deep-linked resources from within discovery tools/link resolvers.

We’re securing the subdomain for EZproxy. Login URLs for e-resources via EZproxy will be in the form:, where XXXXXX is the URL of the target resource (this will allow us to create a simple, generic ‘proxy mask’ for the e-journals A-to-Z/Find it @ Lincoln).

It’s not a live service yet, and not accessible from outside the University network, but here are some examples of our e-resources accessible via EZproxy in a test (Windows 7) environment. Login is via normal University of Lincoln accountID and password.

The test box is allowing us to try out various EZproxy ‘stanzas’ (a.k.a. ‘database definitions‘ – bits of text used to configure EZproxy to work with a given service). Here’s an example of an EZproxy stanza.

Some useful EZproxy links:

We’ve also had a few meetings now about the authentication review process, and a plan of sorts is emerging. Our needs ought to tie in with (and help to inform) some work going on between ICT and CERD on the use of OAuth 2.0 and the Microsoft Forefront Unified Access Gateway (UAG). We’ll also be looking again at the way we use OpenAthens as a gateway to resources via the UK Access Management Federation.

E-journal authentication behind the mask

Posted on November 16th, 2011 by Paul Stainthorp

This blog post is an attempt to elaborate on a problem with managing on/off campus access to electronic journals at the University of Lincoln. It’s a problem which confuses a lot of our users. I hinted at the issue in an earlier blog post.

Underlying the problem is a lack of consistency in the way e-journal platform providers/publishers implement Athens/”Shibboleth” access to their content.

I think the answer to this problem is “…use EZProxy as well or instead“. (We plan to do so.) However if anyone from a ‘strong’ federated-access position can suggest a way around the problem based purely on honest, SAML-based principles, then I’m all ears!

~~~wavy lines~~~

The system we use to manage access to e-journals at the University of Lincoln is EBSCO’s electronic journals A-to-Z. Within its underlying journals knowledgebase, the A-to-Z stores a URL for each journal – here I’ll refer to that URL as A.

The A-to-Z also provides the facility—a very nice facility, as it happens—to rewrite that URL according to a set of predictable rules, generating a new URL which is a function of the original URL: in my pseudomathematical shorthand I’ll call this f(A).

EBSCO call this facility of theirs a “Proxy Server”. Now – I could be being thick, but I don’t think this is a proxy server: it’s a URL rewriting application which merely happens to be used by some libraries to redirect traffic via a URL-rewriting proxy (such as the aforementioned EZProxy); in fact it can be used to ‘mask’ any URL.

We use the so-called “Proxy Server” facility to mask the default URL, A, and instead direct the browser back to the OpenAthens authentication point for the journal provider/publisher (allowing authentication both via the UK Federation and trad. Athens), with a redirect back to the post-authentication page for the journal. We’ll call that page A′ (i.e. “A prime”). A′ permits access to the full text of the journal.

Flowchart of URL masking and authentication workflow

N.B. it’s only possible to do this at all if the Athens/UKAMF authentication point for the journal has a predictable structure. If A′ includes any randomly-generated or unknown elements that aren’t in A and which vary from journal to journal, then A′ can’t be generated by f(A) – so some providers rule themselves out at the first hurdle. Bonjour, most legal databases! Yeah, you know who you are…

If it isn’t possible to create an A-to-Z “Proxy Server” URL mask, then our usual fallback position is to rely on IP authentication for on-campus traffic, but to instruct the user to manually select an Athens/’my institution’-type login for off campus access. This is not ideal: it confuses off-campus users who are used to seamless on-campus access, and it requires that we create help guides—I name and shame thee, Elsevier ScienceDirect—to lead people through often terribly confusing login procedures.

Flowchart of authentication workflow with on- and off-campus differences

There’s another complication: some journal providers, upon Athens-esque authentication from A, don’t send the user to A′. Instead, they redirect to a generic post-authentication page, D.

This = Bad. If you do this, I… just… can’t speak to you right now.

If we don’t (or can’t) apply a URL-rewriting mask in the A-to-Z for a journal package which exhibits this awful behaviour, then we’re relegating off-campus users to a third-class service; further widening the gap between on- and off-campus behaviour. If we do apply a mask, we relegate all users to the same lack of functionality. Which compromise do we choose? We’re damaging the user experience in both cases. [Click the diagram below to embiggen.]

Flowchart of complex authentication workflow for masked and non-masked journals

Finally, and for the sake of completeness, I think that this [below] would be the equivalent flowchart for EZProxy. (You can see why some libraries—and apparently their users—find it attractively simple. It also has the advantage that the ‘masking’ is consistent across all or most journals, the configuration for each e-journal provider being done within EZProxy itself.)

Flowchart of the authentication workflow using EZProxy

Last word – here’s a useful page from Eduserv of Athens-authentication deep links for various e-resource providers. It may be helpful in creating masked URLs for Athens-authenticated journals.