Using trust federations for Virtual Research Organizations at research centers in Mali and Uganda
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Research centers in low- to middle-income countries have historically been at a disadvantage participating in international collaborations, in many cases forced to depend on less reliable infrastructure and resources. Multiple foundations and governments sponsor and collaborate on research at these sites, and often these programs span many academic institutions as well. More than twenty years ago, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) established two centers for collaboration in Sub-Saharan Africa, in Mali at the Faculty of Medicine and in Uganda with the Rakai Health Sciences Program. These International Centers for Excellence in Research (ICERs) conduct basic science and operate clinical studies in tropical medicine and act (from the federation perspective) as both service providers (SP) and identity providers (IdP) to the global research community, providing data, specimens, and human resources to the collaborative effort. Recently the European and North American National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) have been working to expand the use of trust federations and inter-federations (InCommon, CANARIE, and EduGAIN) to facilitate cross-border scientific collaboration and learning. Our effort extends the capacity of the ICERs to collaborate with the international research community by building infrastructure to support Virtual Research Organizations (VROs) that can leverage these federations. This will remove much of the user and identity management tasks from the sites and institutions allowing collaborators to have clearly defined groups and tools to access resources and data. This service delivery model that leverages the growing global trust federation network that supports researchers will provide the global medical research community with a better method to manage collaborations.