With the findings from the Interoperability Reinforcement Plan in our backpack, the EWP+ consortium looks ahead. At the same time, we keep working to make sure no institution is left behind in implementing digital inter-institutional agreements and learning agreements. What’s on the horizon for EWP in 2023 and 2024? Find out more.
The final half of 2022 focused on assuring the interoperability of the EWP network, particularly for IIA data exchanges. While the EWP core infrastructure worked well, some connections presented problems. The interoperability reinforcement plan was impactful. It altered the trajectory of the EWP roll-out in a positive manner. The EWP Consortium wants to build on that momentum and start to focus on the preparation of other digitalised workflows. This means clearly defining the essential requirements to ensure a stable release of all EWP features.
How we are improving the roll-out process
The implementation of inter-institutional agreements was not without complications, as most IROs know. A new framework aims to optimise this process. This entails that all future functionalities need to be robust and institutions receive sufficient support to navigate these processes.
The framework accommodates the move to a more rule-based EWP environment. Over time functionalities will follow a series of steps, to minimize the risk of interoperability issues affecting end-users.
Central to this approach, is an expansion of the testing protocols and a robust testing framework. Testing is vital to establish interoperability before the large-scale adoption of any process. Testing needs to be first carried out by the engineering teams overseeing the functioning of EWP nodes.
Below is the overview of the different phases that all EWP functionalities will have to complete:
Defining the technical specification: a key step to enable the support of new EWP functionality is the definition of the technical specifications that all developers are expected to follow. These specifications are open source, geared for a technical audience.
Establishing Mandatory Business requirements: at the same time, for each of the processes included in the EWP network, theIROs involved in the EWP Governance define the minimal business requirements. These are a description of the requirements for all technical solutions developed under EWP. This also applies to the local implementation of systems. The consortium guides the process in close collaboration with DG EAC, which approves the final version of this document. In an ideal case scenario the mandatory business requirements are established before defining the technical specification. In practice the specification for several processes are already in place so the publication of mandatory business requirements might lead to an update of the technical specification.
Release plan: in some cases a release plan for a new functionality or a key update will be put in place; this is particularly relevant when major API updates come into place and where there is added value in trying to maintain a level playing field among as many network nodes as possible. The release plan is informed by discussions in theEWP Infrastructure Forum, which is the monthly meeting point for the technical community.
Technical workshops: with the Interoperability Reinforcement Plan the notion of technical workshops have been introduced to allow development teams to meet, compare their implementations, discuss challenges and share experiences. This has proven a useful way to, in conjunction with other actions, support developers working on EWP implementation. While participation in such workshops is not mandatory it is strongly encouraged, and the consortium and DG EAC plan to continue to make such opportunities available to the technical community in the foreseeable future.
Official testing phase: prior to going into production for a stable release phase a validation step is mandatory, where the engineering teams supporting the concerned systems will simulate the correctness of their implementations against the EWP reference implementation, based on a publicly available testing protocol designed to yield comparable and significant results. Because such results determine if systems are able to function without interoperability issues, nodes that fail this step will not be allowed in the EWP production network.
Stable release phase: if systems successfully complete official testing, they can be used at scale. Information about the test results is made publicly available. This page constitutes the single source of truth regarding technical readiness of all systems connected to the network. At this point statistics and error monitoring measures are also applicable to such processes. A surge in errors could indicate that a node who was stable is no longer so, leading to the requirement to undergo another testing and validation round.
When functionalities are already available but have not yet undergone the steps described above, this is called an “early release phase”. This effectively amounts to an early trial, which is useful for both development teams and their users. At this stage, we do not encourage large scale usage, but rather focus on gathering some first-hand experiences by end users.
This framework was not established overnight. It builds on the lessons learned from 2021 and 2022, the feedback from the community, and the findings from the Interoperability Reinforcement Plan.
Current statuses of EWP processes
Inter Institutional Agreements: this is a EWP stable release, whereby all the steps and requirements outlined above apply to regulate nodes in the production network.
Learning Agreements: this is a EWP stable release, whereby all the steps and requirements outlined above apply to regulate nodes in the production network
Nominations: this is an EWP early release. While specifications allow for its implementation as of summer 2023 the work on the mandatory business requirements and on the testing protocols is underway. The timeline/release plan to transition to a stable release will be informed by the feedback collected during the present early release phase.
Transcripts of Records: this is an EWP early release. While specifications allow for its implementation as of summer 2023 the work on the mandatory business requirements and on the testing protocols is underway. The timeline/release plan to transition to a stable release will be informed by the feedback collected during the present early release phase.
Several systems have gradually started making nominations and/or transcripts of records available. Others may plan to do so in the near future. However, this does not mean that these functionalities are ready to be used at scale, as explained above. All systems will eventually have to complete the different steps of adapting to the mandatory business requirements and pass testing and validation for this to happen.
We will be keeping the entire EWP community informed regarding the completion of the Mandatory Business requirements later in 2023. At the same time, we remain focused on making sure IIAs and LAs are operational for each and every institution in the network.
Nominations are a much-requested feature by IRO-stakeholders. The current non-EWP process is extremely cumbersome. The perspective to nominate students by clicking a button, makes this a much anticipated event.