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Advice from federation operators that have already implemented R&S is available.  REFEDS has also prepared guidance on the legal justification for R&S and a presentation that can be reused for local training (cf. training material from the Attribute Release Workshop for Federation Operators, TNC2015).  If you would like help to provide training for your members please do not hesitate to contact us.

What do I do if I think a Service Provider is misusing R&S?

Please either contact your local Federation Operator or the REFED Steering Committee (  The REFEDS SC has a process in place for reviewing such complaints and working with Federation Operators to address.

For SP Owners

What types of services are considered R&S services?


Broadly this means that R&S is intended for platforms and services used by researchers or scholars where some sort of collaboration, discussion or other interaction between users is required, making the release of personally identifiable information necessary for the service to work properly. This services may be both paid for or freely available services - the focus of the category is on the nature of the service offering and legitimate requirements for attributes.

Think about issues like:

  • Is it necessary for a name to be displayed in order for work to be attributed to the user or to show them as the contributor? (a wiki is a prime example)
  • Is it necessary for a service to have a user's email address for correspondence such as updates about a grant application? (optional services such as alerting systems that are not part of the core offering would not be considered a good reason for R&S membership).


Service Providers should only request attributes that the service actually uses, so for example if email address is not required by the service it should not be requested. The specification does not explicitly prevent Service Providers from requesting attributes outside the R&S attribute bundle but strongly suggests that they do not ("Service Providers SHOULD request a subset of R&S Category Attributes", section 5 of the specification). R&S works best for both Identity Providers and Service Providers when the bundle is treated as the maximal set of attributes requested.  The specification gives the following advice:

Service Providers SHOULD limit their data requirements to the bundle of attributes defined in Section 5, but MAY negotiate for additional data as required via mechanisms that are outside the scope of this specification.

The category specifies "SHOULD" so as to not unintentionally disallow scenarios where there is a very good reason to ask for an extra attribute, although providers are encouraged to stick to the R&S bundle where-ever possible.  An example exception might be where a contractual arrangement exists and specific attributes (e.g. eduPersonEntitlement) are used to help flag this contractual arrangement.

That said, if an SP requests an attribute outside the R&S attribute bundle, an IdP that supports R&S is by no means required to release it. See the previous question for details about attribute release.

Will I definitely get the attributes requested?

Release of data from organisations is governed by data protection laws that provide a variety of mechanisms to ensure that people and organisations have choice over the data that is released.  R&S is designed to safely and securely release appropriate and required data and all IdPs are encourage to release requested attributes.  There may however be legitimate reasons for attributes not be release (e.g. user consent, data not available for all users in IDM systems etc.).  SPs are encouraged to consider providing helpful error message screens where this may impact service provision.

Are attributes single or multi valued?

Service Providers should reference the eduPerson specification for details on values that may be received per attribute, but in general terms:

  • eduPersonPrincipalName, eduPersonTargetedID, displayName are single-valued.
  • givenName + sn, email address, eduPersonScopedAffiliation can be mutli-valued.

For IdP Operators

What attributes


have to be released by an R&S IdP?

The Research & Scholarship specification defines a bundles of attributes that Identity Providers are encouraged to supporting R&S must release to R&S services:

  • personal identifiers: email address, person name (either displayName or givenName+sn; ideally both forms to help applications that can only deal with one form), eduPersonPrincipalName
  • If eduPersonPrincipalName
  • pseudonymous identifier: eduPersonTargetedID
  • affiliation: eduPersonScopedAffiliation
  • values may be re-assigend at a given IdP (from one person to another, even after a grace period) a SAML 2.0 persistent NameID (or eduPersonTargetedId attribute, though deprecated) must also be released by that IdP.
    (Persistent NameIDs may not be re-assigned, so R&S SPs that

The bundle also includes one optional attribute (everything else above being mandated by the specification):

  • eduPersonScopedAffiliation

Service Providers should therefore be prepared to not receive affiliation attributes under R&S, due to their optional nature.
Affiliations in the form of eduPersonScopedAffiliation attribute values have long known to be not widely interoperable (REFEDS Whitepaper, A.Cormack, M.Linden, 2009) particularly in cross-institutional, cross-cultural or international uses. (As pointed out in the conclusion of said whitepaper affiliations are also unsuitable for most kinds of authorization use-cases, them being too "high level").  For these reasons their use within R&S is not emphasized or recommended.

Category support is defined as follows:

An Identity Provider supports indicates support for the R&S Category if for some subset of the Identity Provider's user population, the Identity Provider releases a minimal subset of the R&S attribute bundle to by exhibiting the R&S entity attribute in its metadata. Such an Identity Provider MUST, for a significant subset of its user population, release all required attributes in the bundle defined in Section 5 to all R&S Service Providers without administrative involvement, either automatically or subject to user consent or notification, without administrative involvement by any party.

See section 6  Section 7 of the R&S Entity Category specification for a precise definition of the minimal subset of the R&S attribute bundleEntity Category gives details of how IdPs should implement support.  Effectively managing use of eduPersonPrincipalName and eduPersonTargetedID in relation to reassignment is one of the areas that causes the most confusion. For the avoidance of doubt, REFEDS recommends that if you support both, release both.

How do I configure an IdP to release attributes to R&S SPs?

To release attributes to all current and future R&S SPs with a one-time configuration, an IdP leverages entity attributes (instead of entity IDs). Thus the configuration steps documented in the R&S IdP Config topic require Shibboleth IdP v2.3.4 or later, which fully supports using entity attributes in SP metadata as part of an attribute release filter policy.No  No other SAML IdP software is known to support entity attributes at this time.

IdPs are broadly taking one of two approaches to releasing attributes to R&S SPs:

  • Configure an IdP to Release a Fixed Subset of R&S Attributes. This releases the same subset to every R&S SP. 
  • Configure an IdP to Release a Dynamic Subset of R&S Attributes. This releases a different subset to each R&S SP based on the <md:RequestedAttribute> elements in SP metadata.

If an IdP restricts attribute release to some subset of R&S SPs, can that IdP declare support for R&S?


Finally, consider the following counterexample. Suppose an IdP releases the minimal subset of the R&S attribute bundle to any R&S SP provided the user is a non-student. That IdP may indeed receive the REFEDS R&S entity attribute in its metadata since it supports the R&S category "for some a significant subset of the Identity Provider's its user population," as required by the REFEDS R&S specification.


Some tips and suggestions for implementing the Research & Scholarship Category are given in a separate document. There is also guidance and advice on attribute release and a useful seven step programme that could be used when adding service providers to an entity category. 


What Federations are Using R&S?

The following federations have implemented R&S with a subset of their members:

 This can be determined using the entities search on