A Cyclone walk

female student under a green umbrella passes tulip bed

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

The cardinal and gold tulips outside Curtiss Hall seemed to relish this week's cool spring showers. An ISU student passing by did her best to stay dry and stay on task as final exams approach. Exams run May 6-9, with commencement events scheduled May 9-11.

Curbing costs, supporting open access with new journal deals

Prices for scholarly journals keep increasing while a growing movement aspires to make the research that journals publish freely available. The intertwined issues are emboldening libraries in their negotiations with major academic publishers, prompting many institutions to trim journal subscriptions and seek new types of agreements that support open access. 

Iowa State University Library is no exception. In recent and future publisher deals, the library has looked for ways to reduce journal costs with minimal disruption and push research out from behind paywalls, said Curtis Brundy, associate university librarian for scholarly communication and collections.

Both issues will be in play in this year's contract talks with Elsevier, the largest academic publisher, which has a three-year deal with Iowa State that expires at the end of 2019.

Back to the core

The savings usually come from forgoing so-called "big deals," which include subscriptions to all of a publishing company's journals for a flat rate. Big deals became common about 15 years ago as publishers transitioned from a print-only business model to the online environment, Brundy said. Instead of carrying individual journal subscriptions from a major publisher, those most read and cited, libraries could provide access to the publisher's entire journal collection.

“With the expanded content came increased usage, but it also accelerated the already spiraling costs of journals,” he said. “Libraries recognized from the beginning that the annual inflation charged by publishers, which has far outstripped the Consumer Price Index for decades, would make big deals financially unsustainable.”

As predicted, big deals delivered big price hikes to libraries. Annual increases of 5% or more gobbled up a ballooning share of often flat collections budgets, Brundy said. In fiscal year 2019, Iowa State's direct spending on journals is about $6 million, more than half of a collections budget that also includes books, audiovisual materials, databases, indexes and reference materials.

Mounting costs have increasingly pushed libraries to drop subscription packages. The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), an open-access advocacy group, maintains an online tracker of big deal cancellations at libraries worldwide. The list is at more than 50 and growing.

Often, big deals are replaced with per-title subscriptions to a core group of journals similar to what a library would have carried before the advent of big deals. Though the sticker price on individual subscriptions is high, libraries' savings can approach 30% by subscribing to only the most-needed journals based on usage data, Brundy said. The savings can be used to defray other rising collections costs and to add new content, he said.

That's about how much was saved by declining to continue in a big deal package with Wiley, the second-largest academic publisher. Iowa State's three-year agreement with Wiley expired at the end of 2018. Rather than renewing the big deal for another three years, the library has retained individual subscriptions to the 324 most important titles. When determining which titles to retain, in addition to article downloads, the library considers where faculty publish, where they cite and if access is available from other sources. Iowa State also ended its big deal with Springer Nature in 2012, dropping from more than 1,000 titles to a little more than 300.

The large profit margins of the biggest publishers have provided a powerful incentive to keep libraries locked in big deals, Brundy said, but institutions that leave big deals have found retaining a targeted list of individual subscriptions, supplemented by interlibrary loan and other access options, can meet their research and learning needs. Plus, libraries that leave big deals still retain digital access to past issues of journals they have paid for, in some cases extending as far back as 1997, he said.

Sharing knowledge

Along with backing away from subscription bundles, libraries that support open-access publishing goals are trying to forge "transformative" agreements that expand free access to research. A transformative deal aims to change how journal publishers make money, linking some revenue to publishing costs instead of access. Libraries shift a portion of what they were paying in subscription fees to cover article processing charges journals impose on researchers for publishing open-access. 

Through the work of the library and supporters of open access on campus, Iowa State is emerging as a leading proponent of open-access publishing. The library, with support of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, was one of the first U.S. institutions to sign on to OA2020 expression of interest, whose 136 signatories are committed to redirecting subscription spending towards open access. It's a fitting stance for a land-grant institution with a mission to share the knowledge it creates with Iowa and the rest of the world, Brundy said.

"We'd like to see the research we do, and the knowledge we create, improve society and have maximum impact," he said. "But our impact and reach are limited when publishers require our faculty to sign over their copyright and then place their articles behind a paywall."

While transformative agreements are becoming more common in Europe, they're still rare in North America. Iowa State has one of the few such deals, with De Gruyter, which provides read access to 275 journals while covering the open-access publishing costs for up to 21 articles per year from ISU researchers.

Reaching a transformative agreement that advances open access with Elsevier is especially difficult, Brundy said. Research consortiums in Germany, Norway and Sweden have walked away from their Elsevier deals after failing to negotiate transformative open access agreements. In February, the University of California system did the same.

The state Board of Regents universities negotiate as a group with Elsevier, and talks recently began. Due to cost concerns, the University of Northern Iowa dropped its Elsevier contract in the last negotiation, which produced a three-year deal that in 2018 cost Iowa State $2.6 million for access to about 3,800 journals via ScienceDirect (a few hundred of which are open-access). It's far too soon to say how negotiations will go, but Brundy said moving from a big deal to individual subscriptions and agreements that support open-access publishing will be options.

“The negotiation climate is changing, giving us a real opportunity to achieve our goals of financial stability, while improving transparency and open access,” he said.

Readying faculty for Workday

When faculty return for the fall semester, Workday will be the new software platform for Iowa State's finance, payroll and human resources work. The WorkCyte team developed a website of resources to help faculty prepare for the transition.

"Faculty have several options to help them prepare for the transition to Workday," said David Cantor, professor in supply chain management and a faculty liaison to the WorkCyte team. "Faculty can select from computer-based training, job aids and user labs to learn about the parts of the Workday system relevant to their job responsibilities."

Training map

Resources on the site include a Workday training "map" faculty members can use to align their training with their position responsibilities. Courses range from self-service actions all employees will do in Workday, to specific tasks for faculty who supervise students and staff, to grants management. Training maps for professional and scientific, merit and student employees are being finalized.

Most courses last about 30 minutes and are completed online. Registration is required for instructor-led training. Course descriptions, registration and links to computer-based training are available on Learn@ISU.

Faculty-focused topics

The website also provides information about Workday changes unique to faculty, including:

When Workday goes live July 1, service teams of finance and human resources specialists will be in place to provide expert help. Service team members and unit assignments are available on the improved service delivery website.

"As we transition to Workday, faculty will be working with staff specialists on their service teams to complete business transactions in Workday. It will be a collaborative process," said Jo Anne Powell-Coffman, professor in genetics, development and cell biology, who also serves as a faculty liaison.

Faculty can submit questions and feedback on the WorkCyte website or contact members of their unit-level project implementation team (PIT) crew.

Seo appointed interim dean of University Library

Hilary Seo, associate professor and associate dean of curation services, has been appointed interim dean of the University Library, effective July 1.

Interim library dean Hilary Seo

Hilary Seo

Seo takes over for Beth McNeil, who recently announced her return to Purdue University, where she will serve as dean of university libraries and school of information studies, and Ellis Norton Professor of Library Science.

"Hilary is very well-respected within the university communities and has been a positive force for change in the University Library," said senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert. "I am confident she will maintain the positive momentum generated by dean Beth McNeil over the last four years as we transition to our next permanent dean."

Seo, who joined Iowa State in 2003, earned a bachelor's degree in physical anthropology from the University of California, Santa Barbara; a master's in library science from the University of Wisconsin, Madison; and a certificate of advanced study in preservation administration from the University of Texas, Austin. Her career has included positions at the Georgetown University Law Library, Washington, D.C., the University of Texas, Austin, and an internship at the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities' book conservation laboratory, Los Angeles.

"I am humbled to be chosen to lead my colleagues as interim dean," Seo said. "I look forward to working together to build on our efforts to serve Iowa State's students, faculty and staff, and to communicate the value of the library to the state of Iowa."

A national search for the next permanent dean will launch in the coming weeks. Bill Graves, dean of the Graduate College, and Laura Jolly, dean of College of Human Sciences, will chair the search committee.

Regents have first look at tuition increases for fall

Resident undergraduates at Iowa State would pay about $330 more in tuition and mandatory fees this fall, under a proposal presented to the state Board of Regents May 1. For out-of-state undergraduates, the jump would be about $1,100. The proposed increases -- 3.7% for resident undergraduates and 4.8% for nonresidents -- respond to a state operating appropriation increase of $12 million for the three universities -- $6 million less than what the board sought from the Legislature.

The tuition-only increase is 3.9% for resident undergraduates, 4% for resident and nonresident veterinary medicine students and 4.9% for all other students. The proposed resident undergraduate increase fits within the "guiderails" set last fall in the board's five-year tuition plan. The plan doesn't include a strategy for nonresident tuition.

This fall, Iowa State also will begin year two of a three-year plan to align numerous differential tuitions into two levels: $1,600 and $2,612 ($3,026 for nonresident and international students) annually when fully implemented. Most differential tuitions begin in the junior year, but beginning this fall Iowa State proposes assessing the differential to sophomores in engineering disciplines and the agriculture systems technology and industrial technology programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Proposals: 2019-20 tuition and mandatory fees**

ISU student group



Increase (%)

Resident undergraduate




Nonresident undergraduate




Resident graduate




Nonresident graduate




Resident veterinary*




Nonresident veterinary*




*Rate varies for 12-month 4th year
**Standard rates (no differential tuition)

In her comments to board members, President Wendy Wintersteen noted this year's operating support from the state is $20 million less than it was in 2000, when enrollment stood at 26,845 -- about 8,000 fewer students than the current academic year. She pointed to "a long-term trend by the state of underfunding or cutting support for public higher education and shifting the burden to our students and their families."

"The future of Iowa is closely tied to the future of our regent universities," she said, "and we must begin to recognize the great return on investment our universities bring to the state."

Wintersteen pledged to do more to help the people of Iowa, particularly legislators, understand that critical link.

Despite the state funding shortfall, Wintersteen said recruiting and retaining high-quality faculty and staff remains a budget priority. She said Iowa State will present a salary proposal at the June meeting.

Student government president Austin Graber called the state funding commitment "disheartening."

He said students shouldn't be worrying every fall about whether they have enough money to return to school, and he called Iowa State's relatively low tuition among peer schools "an easy excuse" for tuition increases.

Graber also said the cumulative impact of tuition increases threatens a basic tenet of land-grant schools: making a college education broadly available.

While she's satisfied with the transparency and predictability built into the regents' five-year tuition plan -- including the interdependence of the appropriations, tuition and reallocations funding streams, Regent Nancy Dunkel said she's not comfortable with "the repercussions of the shortfall in our request from the Legislature."

While legislators have to juggle many funding requests, she said "by not funding our Board of Regents request, we're making it harder for our next generation of leaders to have a great education that is both high quality and affordable."

Dunkel noted that Iowa businesses increasingly demand an educated workforce, and she said it "will take money and it will take great universities to get us there."

Fee increases

As proposed, all Iowa State students would pay an additional $29.50 in mandatory fees next year, for a total of $1,277.90 for most students. An $18.50 increase to the student activities fee would be additional support for student government ($2) and a new fee to support the operations of the student newspaper ($16), replacing the Iowa State Daily's funding contract with student government. The remaining $11, an increase to the student services fee, would help cover cost increases in the CyRide bus system.

The $1,277.90 fee is standard for most undergraduates and reflects a $290 technology fee. This annual fee varies from $244 to $506, depending on the program.

Iowa State also proposes a $10 increase to its undergraduate application fee -- to $50 for U.S. residents and $60 for international students.

Promotion and tenure

In other business, the board gave final approval to promotions or tenure for 70 Iowa State faculty members for the 2019-20 academic year.

Answering the call when problems arise

Sherri Paul and Cindy Stigler

Sherri Paul, left, and Cindy Stigler answer the “Report a Problem” phone line and email service as clerks in the facilities planning and management service center. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

They are the helpful voices on the other end of the phone.

Whether the call comes from a freshman or tenured faculty member, when there is an issue with a leaky roof or a door that just won't lock, they pick up the phone when the "Report a Problem" 4-5100 number rings.

Cindy Stigler and Sherri Paul, clerks in the facilities planning and management (FPM) service center, work to find solutions to the issues that pop up on the Iowa State campus from one day to the next. The two have spent nearly 20 years each helping FPM employees solve problems either called in or sent through the recently established online form.

Do you answer all of the calls and emails that come into the service center?

Sherri: Cindy and I, along with three student employees, answer the phone calls. Cindy, myself, (facilities project manager) Andrew Mott and (project planning specialist) Darla Degroot have access to the email, and we respond as needed. We probably get a half dozen to a dozen emails that come in during a typical week.

What is the most frequent kind of call you get?

Cindy: Plumbing, probably. That and doors. Because we have so many more students, [doors] are getting used a lot more. Everything from broken handles or keys, broken door locks, adding sweeps at the bottom, or doors not locking and unlocking.

What is a typical day in your job?

Cindy: We come in and start pulling up a lot of screens beginning with Outlook, FAMIS -- our software for putting in maintenance requests. We open CyBox because if a fire panel goes down we put it in CyBox so the department of public safety (DPS) can see that. Anyone who goes on a roof has to call us to let us know when they are on and off a roof. Our phones are on a Cisco system, so we pull that up as well as a duplicate screen to make sure we don't have duplicate requests.

We get here fairly early (7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.), and a lot of times someone will come in with a night call they received and get a service request started so they can go get parts. Then we spend the day answering the phones or emails, and try to get them taken care of as quickly as possible.

Who handles the calls after you leave for the day?

Cindy: A supervisor or someone they hand off the responsibility to will take calls because our phone is answered 24/7. After that, calls go to the power plant. DPS sometimes takes calls too. If you can't get hold of us, call DPS because they know how to get hold of us.

When are you typically most busy?

Cindy: When it rains or it snows or we have a seasonal change -- warm to cold or cold to warm -- we get a lot of calls. Right now we are getting calls because some buildings are getting too warm. They haven't filled the chilled water lines yet and that is what cools most of the buildings on campus. Once they make the switch for the season, we don't switch back. Of course, when we get ice and snow it can get crazy.

Sherri: There are days when you think you won't get many calls because it is a light rain, but it is an angled rain and one side of a building leaks when it comes from a certain direction.

Do you get a lot of calls that should go other places?

Sherri: We get a lot of information technology type of calls that should really be going over to the solution center. Residence hall requests we get a lot, but we only do the grounds for residence, and they have their own service center that processes (facilities) calls. We usually just transfer calls to where they need to go.

What is the most unusual call have you received?

Sherri: We had a pair of geese that nested on top of the Food Sciences Building. Once they laid their eggs, the geese would attack people on the ground.

Cindy: A lady at the Farm House was using the restroom and heard a noise. She stood up and there was a bat in the toilet.

Do things slow down when classes are not in session?

Sherri: That is one of our busiest times because that is when we can get into the classrooms and labs and make repairs and remodels.

Is there a problem you handled you are particularly proud of?

Cindy: I had a mom call me because her daughter was coming on a visit, but she had a bad allergy to pesticides. We might spray on a schedule in a building for bugs, so we worked with some people so they could hold off so this girl could be here and not be affected. I look at that as a potential Iowa State student, and we want them enjoy their time here.

Units receive guidelines for moving, housing service team members

Guidelines for handling the equipment, phone and space needs of staff moving into improved service delivery (ISD) specialist roles were provided last week to top administrators. Service team specialists have been asked to complete an online equipment survey to evaluate their current and future technology and workspace needs.

Facilities planning and management (FPM) staff worked with university leaders to develop the guidelines for administrators and supervisors making decisions about ISD team members who will remain embedded or move to new locations.

"We recognize the university has some significant space constraints, so we will need to be thoughtful and creative. Our top priority is to ensure staff are in spaces where they can be successful and the units can easily access their ISD specialists," said Dwaine Heppler, associate vice president for human resources service and strategy.

FPM staff are identifying available space for ISD specialists relocating to different areas and will help plan and prioritize their moves. Heppler said space availability and service team needs will determine moving dates, which could happen before, during and after the July 1 go-live for ISD and Workday. Unit leaders and supervisors will work with FPM staff to finalize workspace, equipment and moving plans.

Collaborative process

The guidelines stress collaboration and support from affected units. Workspace locations, furniture, computers, phones and office supplies are all being addressed as part of the ISD transition.

The workspace location guidelines include:

  • Proximity to units served (embedded when possible)
  • Accessibility to unit employees
  • Privacy for confidential or sensitive discussions

Service team members should not be front-desk personnel who greet unit visitors or handle walk-in traffic and questions.

Who provides what?

Units that house service team members are being asked to provide furniture and standard office space, which will remain in the unit's room inventory. Computers and phones should move with the specialists when possible, but comparable items should be provided to the specialists if that equipment needs to stay put.

Initial office supplies and incidental printing services will be provided by the unit. Service teams will be responsible for computer maintenance, repair and replacement; monthly phone service; recurring office supplies and postage; travel expenses; and training and professional development costs. Information technology services will provide IT support to service teams. More information on funding for one-time and recurring costs will be provided later.

"This will be a collaborative process to locate staff. We want to be mindful of the team approach to service delivery, and we also want to do what’s best for the units the teams are supporting," said Heather Paris, associate vice president for finance and support services.

Nusser reappointed as vice president for research

Vice president for research Sarah Nusser has been appointed to a second five-year term, through 2024, senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert announced this week.

Vice president for research Sarah Nusser

Sarah Nusser

During her first term, which began in 2014, Nusser created the Grants Hub to support faculty with initial grants and large-scale funding opportunities, fostered interdisciplinary research and developed successful strategies to diversify sponsored funding sources.

"Sarah has done an excellent job streamlining and strengthening Iowa State's research enterprise," Wickert said. "Under her leadership, research services for both new and established faculty have improved, and opportunities for faculty in the arts, humanities and social sciences have been enhanced. I particularly appreciate the faculty perspective she has brought to research administration."

Nusser, professor of statistics, joined the Iowa State faculty in 1992. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in botany from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and North Carolina State University, Raleigh, respectively, and master's and doctoral degrees in statistics from Iowa State. Previously, Nusser served as a statistician with Proctor and Gamble Co. in Cincinnati and is a former director of the Center for Survey Statistics and Methodology.

"It has been a great privilege to serve the university, and I am proud of my team's accomplishments over the last five years," Nusser said. "Looking forward, we will continue to work with scholars across campus to secure funding and support their work, generating discoveries that improve the livelihoods of Iowans, our nation and the world."

Wickert expressed his appreciation to faculty and staff who participated in the review process through an electronic survey.

Related story

Nusser named vice president for research, Jan. 16, 2014