Faculty asked to assign intellectual property rights

Senate statement

President Rob Wallace shared language crafted in response to feedback heard during a student-organized open forum on Sept. 30 that raised concerns about diversity and inclusion on campus. The forum was sparked by incidents that took place during a Sept. 12 silent protest. Wallace said the response was written on behalf of faculty, based on comments received by the senate executive board.

In a presentation at the Oct. 20 Faculty Senate meeting, university counsel Paul Tanaka said faculty and research staff will be asked to assign intellectual property rights to the university to protect themselves and ISU from potential losses. He said work with industry, companies and collaborators must be protected in advance.

Tanaka cited a 2011 court case that cost Stanford University and its researchers significant losses in rights and royalties -- despite using federal funds for the disputed research.

"The Supreme Court said the university has an obligation to get an effective IP transfer agreement from [its] researchers, not just lead [principal investigators]," Tanaka said.

"The assignment will only cover IP rights the university has a right to claim under policy," Tanaka said. "All the scholarly works, copyrighted works that are traditionally owned by all of you -- like journal articles -- there is no impact on them. The only area of copyrights where this is going to be impacted are those copyrighted works that are subject to sponsorship, or require a significant contribution from the university -- that's generally going to be the area of software."

The processes are slowly changing on campus, including how the university deals with gold sheets (used for external grant applications) and disclosure agreements. The assignment language also is included in letters of intent for incoming faculty and staff.

Tanaka said the next step is to get current faculty and staff covered. He met with the senate's executive board to develop a plan for moving forward.

"The consensus is that we need to go out and ask current faculty and staff to sign these assignment agreements so we don't have the kind of risk that's out there," Tanaka said.

Other options might slow down the proposal process or create extra work for faculty and staff. Outside collaborators would be asked to sign agreements as well. Senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert said information about the assignment process will be communicated to all areas of campus.

New library dean

Senators met new library dean Beth McNeil, who presented an overview of upcoming projects and initiatives. Her highlights included:

  • Planned programming and education about open access issues
  • The "unique" support for ISU's digital repository
  • A general purpose (active learning) classroom available next semester
  • Student use of the library's mobile white boards

McNeil also outlined some of her priorities, including implementation of a new strategic plan, examining space needs and private fundraising. She also expressed her desire to continue "listening and learning" as she meets with individuals and groups throughout the university.

Other business

Senators cleared the docket with approval of three proposed items introduced last month, including:

  • A lab-based, 15-credit cyber security minor program in the electrical and computer engineering department, intended for students in computer engineering, computer science, software engineering and management information systems
  • An interdisciplinary, 15-credit urban studies minor program in the community and regional planning department, intended for students interested in urban history, urban design, neighborhood revitalization, economic development, social movements and global urbanization
  • A name change for the art and design undergraduate program, to art and visual culture, which mirrors the department name (reorganized in 2012)

Senators continued discussion on proposed revisions to the guidelines for faculty personal responsibility statements (PRS) introduced last spring. Feedback on the recommendations are being accepted through Oct. 23, after which the executive board will submit a revised draft of recommendations to senators prior to their Nov. 10 meeting.