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InCommon BaseCAMP 2023 Speaker Spotlight: Scaling Present & Future IAM Challenges



By John McCormack, InCommon Writer 

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

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The Vera C. Rubin Observatory is an astronomical facility on top of Cerro Pachón, a mountain in Northern Chile. The Rubin Observatory will conduct a ten-year survey of the Southern Hemisphere sky (referred to as the Legacy Survey of Space and Time) with the goal of answering some of scientists’ biggest questions about the Universe. To accomplish this, every night for a decade, the Rubin Observatory will take images of the sky using a 3,200 megapixel camera and six different optical filters. 

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It’s a project of epic proportions with top researchers from around the world collaborating on the endeavor. As the director of identity and collaboration services at SLAC and Stanford University, managing the identity of this array of academic researchers falls squarely onto the shoulders of Bruce Vincent and his team. 

Vincent along with Michael McNulty, senior product manager, Tufts University; Blair Christensen, lead systems programmer, University of Chicago; and Chris Misra, vice chancellor for information technology and chief information officer, University of Massachusetts Amherst, will discuss this and other pressing identity challenges during “IAM: Present & Future,” a session at InCommon BaseCAMP 2023, July 10-14, 2023.

Bruce Vincent, director of identity and middleware services at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Fun Facts About Bruce

What You Like Most About Your Job:

Being around passionate researchers. It’s so cool. It’s an amazing place to work. People are so into the science.

Favorite Song:

Works by composer Victoria O’Magnus

Best IAM Advice Ever Received:

Not everyone will get the joke, but the best advice is “mumble, mumble, mumble” from Bob Morgan.

“SLAC is providing all the digital cameras on the back end, all the optics for the capture of the images. We’re also one of the three global facilities that is taking all the data that is being streamed in for over a decade,” Bruce explained. “It’s going to be a huge storage repository. To do an analysis on the night sky, researchers will need access to those images and all that data. So the identity and access management (IAM) associated with supporting that mission is pretty complex.” 

During the InCommon BaseCAMP session, Vincent will be exploring how his team is supporting the IAM associated with this project and others like it. Instead of credentialing each researcher that participates in the project, Vincent will take a federated approach and rely on the IAM work that the participants’ home organizations have completed.

“I don’t want to be in the business of credentialing the entire planet,” Bruce said. “We leverage the fact that people have a home institution that has already provided IAM services. There are relatively few – if any – astrophysicists doing this type of research who are not affiliated with some research institution. And, most of those institutions are already part of the InCommon Federation.” 

“Federation is becoming ubiquitous, giving our community access to more services than ever before,” observed Tuft’s Michael McNulty. “Simultaneously, our community expects more agency over their personal information, while integrations have become more complicated.”

By attending this BaseCAMP session, IAM professionals can learn from those who have already climbed the same proverbial mountain.

“They don’t need to learn it all by themselves from scratch. There is an enormous community of people who have already gone through and have done a lot of the work ahead of them,” Bruce said.  “And, these people are happy to share their experience. Nobody’s being selfish about how they did something locally. They want to share that practice with others.” 

Michael agreed and noted that attendees will discover “a sense of belonging. There is someone else out there who is going through the same challenges. The solutions may not be the same, but you can feel better that you’re not alone in the world of IAM.” 

Meet Bruce, Michael, their co-presenters, and 20+ other speakers at InCommon BaseCAMP 2023!

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Michael McNulty smiling for a photo

Fun Facts About Michael

What You Like Most About Your Job:

The variety of challenges we get to work on

Favorite Song:

Shostakovich Symphony #5