Modern seismology and seismological instrumentation are driven by basic research challenges as well as imperatives for earthquake hazard and risk reduction, exploration for natural resources, and monitoring nuclear explosions. Decades of investment in seismological infrastructure, including the Global Seismographic Network, numerous national and international regional networks, IRIS PASSCAL, and the IRIS DMS has provided seismologists in academics, government, and industry with unprecedented views of earth structure and seismogenesis.
More recently, the success of EarthScope demonstrates the importance of dense long-term observations from geophysical networks to advance our understanding of deformation dynamics and earth structure. As the Transportable Array rolls across the US and new methods are developed to process data from a coherent array spanning thousands of kilometers, studies based on sparser networks are recognized as comparatively under-constrained. As experiments using the Flexible Array pool with many dozens of broadband instruments or thousands of short period instruments begin returning results, the limitations of smaller experiments become obvious. As studies using seismic data together with geodetic data and other geophysical and geologic data constrain tectonic and mineralogical interpretations, the inadequacy of considering data from only a single discipline becomes clear. The bar has been raised for cutting edge seismological research.
Extending the observational capabilities required to meet the research needs of the seismological community and translating this science to benefit society presents opportunities and challenges for IRIS. It requires new thinking, an expanded mode of operation, and coordinated and sustained international collaborations. While IRIS has been international since its inception, a focused effort developing the partnerships, technical infrastructure, and human capacity required to build, operate, and maintain permanent seismic networks in low- and middle-income countries has the potential to substantially advance IRIS's core mission.
Investments in seismic networks in low- and middle-income countries can and should lead to sustainable monitoring for earthquake hazard reduction at global, regional, national and sub-national scales and to the sustainable development and hazard risk reduction goals of international development agencies and organizations. The need for investments is particularly acute for some of the most earthquake-prone countries, where the leverage afforded by international investments in global networks and regional temporary deployments can be linked to the development of the institutions and technical work force needed for outcome-oriented seismic monitoring. These countries present both humanitarian challenges as well as some of the most scientifically interesting locations for studying the Earth. At the same time, these regions lack the financial, technical, and human resources required to establish permanent to semi-permanent observatories. Establishing permanent networks in these regions provides a foundation for international research and educational collaborations and critical new data for imaging Earth structure while supporting scientific capacity building and strengthening hazard monitoring around the globe.
International seismological development can build on the research interests and educational objectives of the Members of the Consortium and leverage the existing IRIS facilities. IRIS operates facilities that in their design and operation present prototypical templates for multi-scale earthquake monitoring, experiment-oriented seismological observation, comprehensive data management, and data product generation. Training activities can be carried out by regularizing the DMS initiative for regional workshops, by PASSCAL Instrument Center staff with experience installing stations, and by the E&O Program through development of materials and coordination of activities by faculty at IRIS Members and Affiliates.
While international seismological development draws from and leverages the IRIS facilities, ultimate success lays with the Consortium and its Members. An important part of this initiative is establishing partnerships to identify and acquire the necessary financial resources and to educate and train the individuals needed to carry out this work. Consortium members and international partners may be in a unique position to access financial resources not directly available to IRIS. Exchanges between member institutions and partners provide unique opportunities for education and training of both US and international scientists. In addition to developing the human resources needed to sustain efforts in host countries, there is the potential to prepare scientists for careers in the policy and development arenas. IRIS is in a unique position with facilities operation linked to convening authority among the US academic community, a representational governance structure, and a demonstrated commitment to community-based initiatives.
Carrying out this initiative will require dedicated effort, oversight, coordination, and resources. It will require a permanent committee comprised of active individuals with international experience and interest who will assume the primary responsibility of driving forward this endeavor. The committee should include international representation and should have active liaisons with existing IRIS Program Standing Committees, the Program Coordinating Committee, and the IRIS Planning Committee. In addition, it will require support staff at IRIS headquarters to coordinate committee activities, assist in building partnerships with stakeholders, funding organizations, and Consortium Members, and oversee the development of educational and training resources.
In support of IRIS's mission, the Committee will develop partnerships and collaborations that build infrastructure and human capacity in low- and middle-income countries for seismological and related research, education and training, hazard mitigation, and resource exploration.
To fulfill this charge, the Committee will meet as needed but no less than twice per year, provide advice and make recommendations to the Board of Directors, and undertake activities such as:
Members of the Committee are appointed by and report to the Board of Directors. Core members will serve renewable three-year terms, and the Board of Directors may appoint additional members as needed. The committee membership will reflect national and international partnerships including the USGS, IRIS core programs, and the interests of the Voting Members.