The University of Iowa (UI) Office of the State Archaeologist (OSA), which reports to the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR), manages the Iowa Site File, an extensive database of archaeological sites throughout the state of Iowa. Maintained by OSA’s Research Technology Program as a Geographic Information Systems database, Iowa Site File users can view and digitally manipulate layered maps of archaeological site locations, surveyed locations, cemeteries, and other places of historical, archaeological, and cultural significance in combination with base layers such as topography, soils, lidar, and historic and modern aerial photos. This information is used primarily by government agencies and professional consultants involved in projects undertaken by various organizations such as cities, state and federal agencies, and a wide variety of for-profit development firms. The aim is to assess the risk of disturbing significant historical resources when planning roads, bridges, telecommunications, energy and other infrastructure projects. The database is in the public domain but access is limited to qualified users—individuals meeting the Department of the Interior Secretary’s Standards for Professional Archaeologists—at no charge by visiting OSA’s facility in Iowa City during normal business hours. Since 2004, however, those who want the convenience of remote access have had the option of an annual subscription fee that supports the cost of delivery and basic maintenance of I-Sites Pro, an Internet portal to the Iowa Site File. Beginning July 1, 2019, the UI has approved the online delivery of the Iowa Site File by ECR Logic, LLC (ECR Logic) via a software application (ECR FieldPro) developed by OSA staff members who formed a startup company in 2016 for this purpose with the guidance and support of the UI and the State of Iowa. Following are FAQs about the transition, the app, and the relationship between ECR Logic, the UI, and OSA.
Why is OSA no longer delivering I-Sites Pro?
Following UI policy, the subscription fee assessed by OSA may only cover reimbursement costs associated with management and delivery of the online database. Policy does not allow for continuous version enhancements and upgrades as is typically needed for modern software products in the fast-changing digital world. While improved user experience and programming to make the information stored in the database more useful and readily available have been long planned, available funding within the university system has been—and is expected to remain—inadequate. Even if UI policy allowed collection of fees to support improvements, the small user base (ca. 25 licensed organizations) would have to pay a great deal more than currently charged to support the programming and management. Yet, users of a wide range of desktop and remote device platforms—from iPads to Android phones—have come to expect more reliable, portable, and user-friendly apps to access data anywhere, anytime. Upgrading I-Sites to meet these modern expectations and the necessary expanded delivery system is not possible without significant and sustained funding unavailable within a university setting.
What is ECR Logic, LLC?
ECR Logic, LLC (Environmental and Cultural Research Logic, LLC), is an Iowa-based startup company founded in 2016 by members of OSA’s staff after they successfully completed the UI Faculty Innovators and Venture School training programs. The team was awarded "Best Business Opportunity" in its Venture School cohort. In 2017-18, ECR Logic beta tested a mobile application designed to efficiently serve multiple field sciences on a national basis, and in 2018 the State of Iowa’s Proof of Commercial Relevance Fund awarded the company $25,000 to support hiring of programmers to build on the team’s core intellectual property, which is licensed from the UI Research Foundation, and to pay for additional customer discovery activities. In 2019 the Iowa Economic Development Authority awarded ECR Logic an additional $100,000 to help offset costs of proceeding with commercialization. Today the team includes co-founders OSA Director John Doershuk, Research Technology Director Mary De La Garza, and Strategic Initiatives Director Elizabeth Reetz, supported by a growing number of employees.
What is ECR FieldPro?
It’s a nationally focused, cloud-based, multi-state/multi-field science desktop and mobile GIS application. ECR FieldPro streamlines fieldwork planning, in-field data collection and documentation, and report preparation, which ECR Logic claims will save time and money for businesses completing environmental compliance work. I-SitesPro will be available to qualified users as an option package within ECR FieldPro, one of several within the app.
What features does ECR FieldPro provide over I-Sites Pro?
The initial features of ECR FieldPro upon its launch include:
- Website access plus native applications on mobile devices (iOS + Android)
- Access to all the data layers previously found in I-Sites Pro plus additional data, including a growing number of Iowa environmental layers
- Secure profiles and cloud-based data hosting
- Capability of finding and recording user location and recording sketch maps and measurements without an Internet connection
- Mobile data collection via fillable forms, including in offline mode
Enhancements planned for the next year include:
- Ability to create scopes-of-work inside the application, allowing field teams to see updates in real time w/Internet or cloud sync
- Geo-tagged photos
- Ability to create teams and roles and to share data access by project and roles
- Customizable layers—shapefiles and georeferenced pdfs and jpegs
- Environmental data from states outside of Iowa (available for additional fee)
What is ECR’s relationship to OSA and the university?
Administratively, the UI has entered into a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with ECR Logic, LLC to deliver I-Sites Pro as an Iowa archaeology-focused package within its product ECR FieldPro. This agreement, drafted by the UI Office of General Counsel, approved by OVPR, and signed by the UI Director of Purchasing, reflects a cooperative public-private effort crafted to achieve “do no harm” to OSA budget, staffing, and sensitive data access control while ensuring that as part of ECR FieldPro, future functionality will exceed previous delivery standards while providing extra value.
Does this arrangement present a conflict of interest?
OSA, ECR Logic, and the UI have followed a long-established and rigorous process that allows UI faculty and staff to start businesses that seek to commercialize research and scholarship conducted in their capacity as state and university employees. This process involves the General Counsel, Purchasing, Human Resources, the UI Research Foundation, the Conflict of Interest Office and other offices committed to protecting the integrity of public assets, holding the university from harm, complying with federal and state ethics guidelines, and helping entrepreneurial faculty and staff clearly delineate work they do as part of their business from their ongoing work as state employees. Many similar agreements have been struck across campus to spur the development of new medical devices and treatments, pharmaceuticals, and other inventions (Innovation at UI).
Will subscription rates increase for legacy users of I-Sites?
Yes, nominally, as the MOA between the UI and ECR Logic has built-in price controls. Rising labor and data storage costs would have resulted in increased cost if I-Sites delivery were continued as before. The renewal fee for commercial users/consultants effective July 1, 2019, will increase from $2,500 to $2,750 for a full license (providing access to up to 10 qualified users within an organization). An academic license limited to research use and not professional consulting remains just $125 per faculty sponsor, and several American Indian Nations have courtesy access to support their role in government-to-government consultation about historic preservation issues of concern to their people. As noted above, qualified users may access the database at no cost by visiting OSA in person during regular business hours.
Will OSA be required to pay a fee to use the app?
No. Under the UI Research Foundation license agreement with ECR Logic, qualified users at the UI may access the online Iowa Site File at no cost.
Will ECR Logic be required to compensate the University to deliver the online access?
Yes. Additionally, the MOA requires the LLC to pay the university an annual fee to deliver the database online to the qualified Iowa users; these funds will be used by the UI to offset the cost of staff support for ongoing database management within OSA. Determination of user qualifications will continue to be an OSA function with oversight provided by OVPR.
What is ECR Logic’s incentive for creating this app?
Its immediate objective is to improve the user experience for Iowa archaeologists that regularly access the Iowa Site File and build a sustainable funding base for continuous advancements to the app which will benefit Iowa users. As ECR FieldPro is fully commercialized, the company expects to broadly expand its app to nationally support many types of professional consultants, environmental sciences, and permitting agency personnel in their environmental and archaeological compliance roles, resulting in revenue to ECR Logic, the UI, and OSA.