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OpenAthens FAQ

Will the user be notified if they already have an OpenAthens account?


When a user selects the new NHS Wales option and logs in with their NHS Wales email address, it creates a “shadow” account tied to that NHS Wales user, as opposed to an account in OpenAthens.  It will not alert the user if they already have a self-registration account, even if their former account was also registered with the same NHS Wales email address, both accounts sets of login credentials will be valid.


When a new account is set up


How are accounts generated for new users?

If a new e-Library user comes to access for the first time, they can choose to log in with their NHS Wales email address and password and OpenAthens will automatically generate a shadow account from a minimal set of details held in the NHS Wales directory, (name, email address, organisation).

Users can also choose to still self-register as they did previously.

Will they get an email confirming the account set up? If so, what will this look like (can you share draft?  At the moment local administrators can add extra information to this email.)

No, anyone signing in using their NHS Wales email address and password will not receive an email confirming that they have an OpenAthens account. This is because they are actually signing into the NHS Wales Active Directory which communicates with OpenAthens to generate a “shadowed” account and authorise access. As a result, users won’t necessarily know that they are even using the OpenAthens system.

If the Nadex password is used will it change regularly in line with cymru account? Or is this an initial password and users will be prompted to change it on first login?

Users will be logging in to the NHS Wales Active Directory, not OpenAthens.  As such a password won’t actually be held in the OpenAthens system. In line with NHS Wales policy users update these passwords every 3 months.


Self-registering open Athens users have the option to log in with an email account if the box was ticked when account initially set up. Would this then be a different account?

Yes, if a current OpenAthens self-registered user has the option to sign in with their email address this account will be different to the account automatically generated if they signed in via the NHS Wales Active Directory using their NHS Wales email address and password, even if the email addresses are the same.

The user decides which email address (login) to use when they make the initial selection of NHS Wales or OpenAthens. 

Example:             A user has self-registered for OpenAthens with their NHS Wales email address, then uses the new log in option creating a new account. If the user chooses the OpenAthens option at the initial selection when they come to log in and attempt to use their NHS Wales password it will not work, since in OpenAthens will be looking for the self-registered OpenAthens account password.

When a user accesses resources directly (e.g. from Google, as opposed to the library website) they are not immediately presented with the same OpenAthens login.


This will vary from platform to platform, but as a general rule, users can look for the “Login” option, and select “OpenAthens” or “Institutional login”.  The OpenAthens login screen that this will generate will be the classic display that self-registered users can use as normal.

Example Screen 1



Example Screen 2



For users wishing to use the new login method however, they will need to find the organisation at this point and select their appropriate Health Board or Trust.


Example screen 3




A particular website doesn’t give me the option for OpenAthens or Institutional Login, instead I only see “Shibboleth”?


Users should still be able to reach the appropriate login screen by selecting “Shibboleth” when there are not other options. Users should in this case look for the “OpenAthens Federation” in the list.


I’ve just joined the e-Library, but I already registered for a personal account with [BMJ] using my email address. I would like to take advantage of the NHS Wales subscription instead.


In most cases, account settings can be migrated. Use the relevant “Contact Us” button on the desired publisher’s website (e.g. BMJ) and they will be able to do this for you.


Can I use SSO and OpenAthens Interchangeably?


Technically speaking, yes, though we would advise against this.  Each account will be unique and linked to its own set of preferences and saved searches. You will avoid confusion by sticking to a single login, whichever you choose to use.


Can I use SSO on an Apple Mac?


Regardless of which device you use, PC, Apple Mac, a tablet device or mobile phone, Open Athens and SSO will work just the same.