Twee onderzoekers samen achter computer kijken naar data
Case study

Naturalis gives researchers control of their projects with SURF Research Access Management

With some 120 scientists, Naturalis conducts research on biodiversity. Their standard IT solutions for identity and access management offered their researchers too little autonomy: they themselves want to be able to invite other researchers to collaborate. SURF Research Access Management (SRAM) was the solution to this challenge.

SRAM uses organisational identities

Titus Kretzschmar, product owner of the core IT infrastructure team: "Previously, our IT support department created groups in Microsoft Azure AD at the request of researchers. That is our central system for identity and access management. However, this created an unnecessary administrative burden for the support department and caused 'contamination': researchers who were no longer allowed access because they were appointed elsewhere, for example, but who were still in the group. With SRAM, we avoid this because it uses the organisational identities of the researchers. A scientist now reports a project for a research group to the research it-supporters. These then create a group in SRAM, and give the requesting scientist the rights to add colleagues himself. If someone (a member of the group) gets an appointment elsewhere and no longer participates in the project, they can no longer log in and therefore automatically have no access. Also, creating the project in SRAM automatically creates storage resources for the research project.

Control by researchers

Apart from the administrative burden that Naturalis experienced before SRAM, the core it-infrastructure team wanted to facilitate research-it colleagues in independently creating storage locations and give the researchers themselves more control over who they work with. "They decide themselves who gets access to which data. Basically just like collaborating in Google Drive; only that is not the most suitable location for scientific data. So we gave researchers a better way to arrange and get access to services that their collaboration uses: SRAM," says Kretzschmar.

SRAM team engages with researcher

"Before we used SRAM, I already had a conversation with someone from SURF about our use cases. Ultimately, it's about the service delivering value to the end user, the researcher. And that's what SURF's SRAM team ensures by engaging with them and keeping them engaged." He adds that SRAM's strength also lies in the team's vision: "They look at the service from the researcher's point of view, but they also have their own vision of their product. I think that's very strong and that's how SRAM stays right at its core: stable and safe."

Future plans Naturalis with SRAM

Naturalis has been working with SRAM since early 2024 and is enthusiastic. A few things are planned for the near future, such as linking Galaxy to SRAM. Galaxy is a web application for scientists that allows them to perform analyses on their data. For example, a researcher can also give a group of students access to data. And we can make sure that that group's calculations end up on certain servers, so that they don't interfere with the calculations of other researchers or the lab, for example."

Are you considering SRAM too?

Titus Kretzschmar of Naturalis has these tips for you:

  • The adoption costs for SRAM are low. So just give it a try!
  • It seems exciting to let researchers arrange access to services or data themselves (via SRAM), but the alternative is that they use Dropbox, usb's or an (external) hard disk to share data. And that is not necessarily more secure.


Arnout Terpstra

Arnout Terpstra