Senate learns more about evolving research efforts

Meeting coverage

In a report to the Faculty Senate Feb. 12, vice president for research Sarah Nusser provided an update on efforts to improve and advance research on campus.

Talks with numerous groups that assist researchers in their work identified four challenges:

  • Adjust to the evolving world of scholarship
  • Address issues with research facilities like greenhouses, animal facilities and secure computing environments
  • Reduce administrative burden for researchers 
  • Provide better internal and external visibility

A major part of research visibility is focusing on open-access scholarship, an area where Iowa State has been aggressive in recent years.

"The whole idea of open scholarship is that when you are doing it, you are making it publicly available," said Nusser, who pointed to the publication repository and open educational resources at Iowa State.

Research could benefit from improved organization and training of grant coordinators, and a more collaborative network across colleges.

International research collaboration is valued at Iowa State, but going forward security will be key. 

"It is essential that we collaborate globally in scholarship, no matter what your discipline is. It doesn't stop at the U.S. border," Nusser said. "This has to do with how you collaborate, how you share materials across borders, how you work with other individuals."  

This year's ISU Research Day is March 28 and will feature an address by Margaret Hedstrom of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, on the positives and negatives of public access to data and scholarship.

Term faculty and tenure

Faculty Senate president Peter Martin spoke about progress being made in implementing term faculty policies adopted last May. Discussion has raised issues such as the definition of continuous employment, faculty voting rights in a department and term faculty responsibilities.

"The general principle guiding the term faculty policy is, we are one faculty, we want to respect each other and we want to work together," Martin said.

Martin also addressed the recent bill introduced in the Iowa Legislature to end tenure at Iowa’s three public universities.

Sen. Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale) has made previous attempts to end tenure -- most recently in 2017. The bill would allow faculty to be terminated on grounds that include but are not limited to "just cause, program discontinuance and financial exigency." 

Martin believes it is the faculty's duty to educate people on what tenure is and is not.

"Tenure is less so about job security and more about academic freedom," he said. "Although it may be disconcerting that this bill comes up again in the Iowa Legislature, I would argue it allows us to discuss and inform the public and each other about tenure."

AAU campus climate survey

Dean of students Vernon Hurte announced Iowa State will be one of 33 institutions participating in the Association of American Universities campus climate survey. The last survey -- which focuses on sexual violence, sexual assault and sexual misconduct -- was conducted in 2015. ISU students participate by completing an online survey between March 1 and March 31. 

"This provides critical information about our policies and procedures -- everything from reporting to how we support those impacted," Hurte said.

Other business

Senators approved a change to the Faculty Handbook proposed during the Dec. 11 meeting by the Academic Affairs Council. The language clarifies an expectation for consistent core learning outcomes through all sections of a course without limiting how faculty assess the course.