Stack of book

OpenAthens assists Oxford University Press with successful migration of Oxford Academic platform.

17 August 2022 • Lauren Harding, senior marketing officer

Oxford University Press has a rich academic publishing history dating back to the first book printed in 1478. Its notable milestones include a decree from the Star Chamber in 1586, enhanced by a Great Charter entitling the University to print ‘all manner of books’.

The Oxford Academic platform features over 500 journals and 40,000 academic book titles and on average is accessed by OpenAthens Federation users more than 102,000 times each month.

The issue

The Oxford University Press team wanted to implement a new access control system for its Oxford Academic platform.

The project had to ensure:

  • the new target could be tested without interruption to the production service
  • the existing integrations with publisher platforms Silverchair and HighWire could be tested at every stage
  • delivery of a seamless transition from SGK to OIDC backed authentication for OpenAthens proxy as well as from the existing SAML service provider to the new one.

All of this had to be transparent to users with no interruptions to service availability.

We started working with Oxford University Press in early November 2021, and the project completed on 24 January 2022 with a successful platform migration.


Rebecca Sharp (Delivery Manager at Oxford University Press) was undertaking a significant upgrade of the technology. She knew the project required detailed communication between separate platform providers as well as an external view of the pre-release target. The ability to test, retest and to implement flexibility around key timings for the project were also key. The migration date and other key milestones needed to be flexible, as did the team overseeing them.

A key consideration for Oxford University Press was the complexity of the data transfer. There was no room for data gaps or loss, and the client required a developer view to validate Silverchair and HighWire updates. Providing the client with test proxy targets and user accounts was also crucial to ensure everything was in the right place.

The significant scale of the project meant every aspect needed to come together at the right time, with no disruption to access to content for the OpenAthens users reliant on accessing information. The team overseeing the transition needed to be in regular communication and fully accessible during the D-day switchover.

Rebecca explains:

“The scale and complexity of the project was significant and having seen how OpenAthens can manage this size of data transfer, and worked closely with their team of SAML experts on other initiatives, we knew they could manage it competently and efficiently. They provided the reassurance, transparency and flexibility of support we required. The project didn’t disappoint.”


Our team offered the benefit of a team of SAML experts to help oversee the project and ensure each element could be tested in turn. The team also provided on-demand availability of its 2nd-line expert support on D-Day to oversee three key requirements. These were:

  1. updating the Federation metadata at the right time
  2. switching access for all OpenAthens IdPs in the resource catalogue
  3. offering rollback options if required at any stage.

Rebecca continues:  

“The OpenAthens team remained agile throughout the project. When we reached the critical cutover point, we had the support of a seasoned SAML expert to oversee the OpenAthens team’s work and liaise with our Technical Delivery Lead on any questions or emerging issues that arose. Having the team on hand was reassuring, and their expertise in seamless platform migration and working with partners like Silverchair and HighWire meant we were in safe hands. The developer view was crucial for our team, as were the test proxy and user accounts provided. During the D-Day transition OpenAthens’ SAML expert went over and above to ensure a smooth transition. They were responsive, remained clear, consistent and available. We knew that had anything gone awry they confidently advise on bug-fix or quickly roll back the data if necessary to ensure minimal customer impact.”

Benefits and results

Oxford University Press already had the benefit of single sign-on for multiple resources and a personalised dashboard for resource management, also benefiting from reporting toto highlight priority accounts and content. Working with OpenAthens enabled them to provide a seamless transition of access for OpenAthens users, with a new interface being the only visible sign to most customers that any change had occurred. The consistency of communication and ability to outsourcing heavy lifting, data migration planning and testing provided reassurance to the Oxford University Press team.  

Rebecca adds:

“Choosing OpenAthens to manage the transfer of endpoint data directly within their database,  and cut over to the new service provider on migration has been hugely beneficial for Oxford Academic users and administrators.  Doing so removed the need for each individual organisation to make the updates themselves, at the exact point of cutover, as well as the Press’ need to support them in doing so An outcome which would not have been possible this if we had outsourced management of our Identity to a third party. The entire process was well managed, providing us visibility, authoritative support and reliable testing at each stage. We are very happy with the entire project and look forward to working with the team again in the future.”

Developer on laptop