The Gale Digital Scholar Lab Adds a New Sign-In Method

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We’ve made updates to the way users can create a sign-in to the Gale Digital Scholar Lab, furthering its commitment to a secure and seamless user experience for faculty and student access.

| By Margaret Waligora, Product Manager |

Since its launch in 2018, users have been able to sign in to the Gale Digital Scholar Lab using a Google or Microsoft email address to build, clean, and analyze optical character recognition (OCR) texts across multiple sessions. During this time, we received feedback from librarians and researchers about how we could improve and expand our sign-in options to align with the infrastructure at their institutions.


As of Friday, December 18, 2020, users can sign in to the Gale Digital Scholar Lab using their university credentials—addressing the highest-priority issue of our library partners and users. This new sign-in method uses Shibboleth authentication to anonymously log users in to the Lab and persist their content sets, configurations, and analyses across multiple sessions.

What is Shibboleth?

Per the Shibboleth Project:1

Shibboleth is one of the most widely used identity management systems in the world. After emerging as an Internet2 middleware activity in 2000, it was quickly adopted by academic institutions, identity federations, and commercial organisations all over the world.

We create products that enable secure and seamless access to protected online resources and applications. With just one identity, a user can securely sign into a variety of systems while keeping management free from the burden of maintaining a collection of usernames and passwords. As an open-source project, all Shibboleth software is free and accessible to all and support is widely available through active community forums.

How it works:

Users are prompted to log in upon arrival to the Gale Digital Scholar Lab. By selecting the “Log In / Create Account” button, users see the following options:

First-time users of the “University Credential” sign-in method are prompted with permissions to release an anonymous persistent ID for Gale to consume and store in an encrypted database. This allows the application to save content sets, configurations, and visualizations across multiple product sessions.

Users who plan to use their new university account moving forward can migrate their content sets, configurations, and analyses with two clicks! All you have to do is click the Migrate button, located just above the Build, Clean, Analyze, and My Content Sets navigation.

Once selected, the user is prompted with the Google and Microsoft options. All that’s left is to sign in with Google or Microsoft credentials from the original account. This enables Gale to copy the user’s work via a secure, anonymous handshake to the newly created university account.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if my institution uses the Shibboleth authentication method?

We recommend getting in touch with your librarian if you’re unsure if your institution uses Shibboleth to support single-sign-on functionality.

What if I don’t see the “University Credentials” button?

It’s likely your institution doesn’t use Shibboleth authentication or we’re missing the persistent ID attribute required for this feature. In either case, we recommend reporting the issue to our technical support team by sending an email to [email protected].

Is there any action required to make this option available to users at my institution?

You may need to work with your IT department and/or affiliated federation to release a persistent ID attribute as a part of the SAML response sent to Gale.2 Whether the persistent ID attribute is sent in the SAML response is dependent on your institution’s Shibboleth setup.

What Shibboleth federations does Gale currently support?
  • InCommon Federation
  • CARSI Federation
  • Renater Federation
  • UK Federation
  • OpenAthens Federation
  • WAYF .DK Federation
  • DFN-AAI Federation
  • Canadian Access Federation
  • COFRe - Communidad Federada REUNA
  • GakuNin Federation
How is Gale handling the data my institution passes over in the SAML response?

The only data passed in the SAML response that we consume and store is the persistent ID. This ID is stored in an encrypted database. We don’t ask for any personally identifiable information in this response. The persistent ID will only be used within the Gale Digital Scholar Lab and is never shared.

1. “The Shibboleth Project,“ Shibboleth Consortium website, accessed December 15, 2020.
2. “Shibboleth Federations,” Shibboleth Consortium website, accessed December 15, 2020; “Persistent Name ID Generation Configuration,” Shibboleth Consortium website, accessed December 15, 2020. 

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