Version 3: 4 March 2014. Changes to reflect new sponsorship agreement and change  of name from TERENA to GÉANT.
Version 2: 19 February 2014. Changes to software license requirements and addition of section 10.
Version 1: 25 June 2010.

1. Objectives

REFEDS (Research and Education Federations) is an international community addressing the need of existing and emerging identity federations in the education and research sector worldwide to collaborate on policy issues. REFEDS operates under the GÉANT Association umbrella (hereafter called GÉANT).

REFEDS is supported by a secretariat consisting of employees from the GÉANT Amsterdam Office and other expert staff subcontracted by GÉANT.  This team is led by the REFEDs Coordinator, who is a member of staff from GÉANT.

REFEDS’ main focus is on policy issues, particularly those concerning inter-federation collaboration of SAML-based federations. REFEDS confines its activities to the production of guidelines and best practices, mainly concerning federation policies in higher education.

2. REFEDS mailing lists, website and meetings

The REFEDS secretariat maintains a general REFEDS mailing list, additional mailing lists on specific topics when need, a REFEDS website and a REFEDS wiki. The REFEDS secretariat organises two general REFEDS meetings per year. Additional meetings or workshops may be organised if a need is identified.

Subscription to the general REFEDS mailing list and participation in the semi-annual REFEDS meetings is open to any individual who can offer appropriate expertise. By subscribing to a REFEDS mailing list or participating in a REFEDS meeting, an individual automatically accepts the REFEDS rules, including the rules about intellectual property.

3. REFEDS Participants

Participation in REFEDs is open to anyone, without payment. Organisations whose members participate in REFEDS activities (i.e. mailing list discussions, REFEDS meetings and so on) are considered REFEDS Participants. For practical purposes, the REFEDS website maintains a list of the identity federations participating in REFEDS; in most of the cases the name of the participating organisations is different from the name of identity federations they operate.

4. REFEDS Sponsors

REFEDS Participants are invited to become ‘REFEDS Sponsors’, i.e., to provide funding for the REFEDS work. The REFEDS Sponsors are listed with their logo on the REFEDS website. It is not mandatory for REFEDS Participants to contribute to the funding, and the size of the amount that a REFEDS Sponsor contributes is for that Sponsor itself to decide based on the levels shown in the REFEDS Sponsorship Agreement.

5. Annual REFEDS workplan and budget

Annually, the REFEDS secretariat drafts a workplan for the next one-year period with a corresponding budget. A workplan consists of work-items and sub-work-items. It identifies who will carry out each (sub-)work-item, and whether the corresponding manpower and any other costs (e.g., travel, meeting costs) will be donated by the person carrying out the work and his/her employer, or need to be funded by REFEDS Sponsors.

The maintenance of the REFEDS mailing lists and website and the organisation of the semi-annual REFEDS meetings are in any case part of the annual workplan. For budgeting and claiming manpower costs, GÉANT uses the same tariffs and methods of calculation as for other projects (e.g., EU-funded projects). When external experts are subcontracted, GÉANT aims for similar tariffs.

The draft workplan and corresponding budget are discussed on the general REFEDS mailing list and in a face-to-face general REFEDS meeting. These discussions may lead to the addition or deletion of (sub-)work-items and other changes to the draft workplan and budget, and to a prioritisation of (sub-)work-items. Decision taking about these issues in a REFEDS meeting is on the basis of ‘rough consensus’ as used in the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) for decision taking. The plan is then presented to the REFEDS Steering Committee for ratification and to the REFEDS Sponsors for funding agreement.

6. Funding of the annual REFEDS workplan

After amending the draft workplan on the basis of the discussions on the general REFEDS mailing list and in the general REFEDS meeting, the REFEDS secretariat sends the annual workplan to the REFEDS Sponsors and potential REFEDS Sponsors, asking them for a financial contribution for the coming year.

REFEDS Sponsors are encouraged to commit a contribution to the annual REFEDS workplan as a whole, with the prioritisation that is described in the workplan determining which (sub-)work-items will be funded in case the total of committed contributions is insufficient to fund all (sub-)work-items in the workplan. However, a REFEDS Sponsor is allowed to earmark its contribution, i.e., to stipulate that its contribution must be used to fund one or more specific (sub-)work-items and that (the remaining part of) its contribution may only be used to fund other (sub-)work-items once the funding of those specific (sub-)work-items has been secured.

If bilateral contacts between the REFEDS secretariat and individual REFEDS Sponsors are insufficient to secure adequate funding of the highest-priority (sub-)work-items in the workplan, the REFEDS secretariat organises a meeting (by electronic means) of representatives of the REFEDS Sponsors to find a solution.

7. REFEDS Steering Committee

The REFEDS Steering Committee consists of six members, who are appointed for a two-year term of office. When there are vacancies in the REFEDS Steering Committee, the REFEDS Participants nominate candidates to fill these vacancies. Each candidate must be supported by at least one sponsor. These are announced on the general REFEDS mailing list and the REFEDS Secretariat takes into account any comments received before taking the final decision about the appointments.

The REFEDS Steering Committee oversees the execution of the annual workplan and proposes agenda items for the semi-annual general REFEDS meetings. It also provides input to the REFEDS secretariat when the workplan for the next year is drafted. The Steering Committee may produce an evaluation of the work carried out in the past year and its results, which is then sent to the REFEDS Sponsors and published on the REFEDS website together with the annual report.

The REFEDS Steering Committee monitors the execution of the annual workplan; if it is of the opinion that insufficient progress is made in a particular (sub-)work-item, it may decide to freeze the execution of that (sub-)work-item until the next semi-annual general REFEDS meeting, where it then proposes to delete that (sub-)work-item from the workplan. The REFEDS Steering Committee may propose to include a new (sub)work-item in the workplan of the running year. Such a proposal will be submitted for decision taking by ‘rough consensus’ to the next semi-annual general REFEDS meeting, or if that is not possible, to the general REFEDS mailing list. If contributions from REFEDS Sponsors are required, they will also be consulted about the proposal.

8. Annual report

After the end of the year, the REFEDS secretariat sends the REFEDS Sponsors a report on the actual work carried out in the past year and its results, as well as a financial report. These documents are also published on the REFEDS website.

If the expenditure for the year has been less than the contributions collected from the REFEDS Sponsors, then the surplus remains with GÉANT to cover part of the costs of the next year of REFEDS work.

9. Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)

When contributions are made to REFEDS, the contributors must declare that they have not breached any IPR conditions by contributing the material. This applies to all kind of contributions.

In case of software contributions, REFEDS will accept all material that falls under an OSD License. Persons contributing to REFEDS accept that the final result will be made available under an open source license according to the following principles:

Creative Commons CC BY SA 4.0 for documents, reports, presentations etc., unless otherwise agreed and for justified reasons:

  • 2-clause BSD license, or any other appropriate open source license that has been agreed with the REFEDS Coordinators, for new software being developed within REFEDS;
  • a license that falls under OSD in case of existing software being contributed to REFEDS.

If requested, GÉANT may own Intellectual Rights for results produced by REFEDS. In this case GÉANT will apply the policy described above. If requested, GÉANT may acquire title to patents or copyrights associated with REFEDS activities; however, this should only be considered if necessary to achieve REFEDS’ goals.

10. REFEDS Working Group

When a workplan item is agreed, REFEDS Participants will be asked if they wish to participate in a working group for that work item. Working Groups tend to be small (3-6 people), so consensus can be achieved quickly between participants. A chair for the group is chosen from the REFEDS Participants.

GÉANT provides facilities for the working group, including meeting support, wiki space, mailing lists and, where appropriate, funding. An appropriate output from the group is produced. Currently, this is typically a draft white paper or a wiki page.

When the Working Group is in agreement, the chair shares the outputs with the wider REFEDS community with an open period for discussion and comment. This is typically a period of 4 weeks, but may be longer if appropriate.

After this period of time, the REFEDS Steering Committee signs off on the work item. Work is either written up as a formal white paper, left on the wiki but promoted as finished work or occasionally submitted as an Internet Draft.