International Development Seismology Committee

Committee Charge


Modern geodesy, seismology, magnetotellurics and other geophysical sciences are driven by basic research questions and imperatives for natural hazard and risk reduction, exploration for natural resources, understanding the environmental impacts of climate change, and monitoring nuclear explosions. Decades of investment in geophysical infrastructure, including the Global Seismographic Network, Network of the Americas, other national and international geophysical monitoring networks, portable instrumentation and scientist support programs, and the publicly open data archives have provided geophysicists in academia, government, and industry with a greater understanding of the natural world.

Extending the observational capabilities required to meet the research needs of the geoscience community and translating this science to benefit society presents opportunities and challenges for IRIS and UNAVCO. It requires new thinking, an expanded mode of operation, and coordinated and sustained international collaborations. While IRIS and UNAVCO have been international since their inception, a focused effort developing the partnerships, technical infrastructure, and human capacity required to build, operate, and maintain geodetic, seismic, and associated geophysical infrastructure in low- and middle-income countries has the potential to substantially advance the core missions of IRIS and UNAVCO.

Investments in hazard monitoring infrastructure in low- and middle-income countries can and should lead to natural 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, volcano, and landslide-prone countries, where international investments in global networks and regional temporary deployments can be linked to the development of the institutions and technical workforce needed for outcome-oriented hazard monitoring. These settings 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 geophysical research development and capacity building can build on the research interests and educational objectives of the members of the IRIS and UNAVCO communities and leverage the existing IRIS and UNAVCO-operated facilities. Both organizations operate facilities that provide prototypical templates for multi-scale geophysical monitoring, experiment-oriented observation, comprehensive data management, and data product generation. Training activities can be carried out by leveraging regular programmatic activities and through development of materials and coordination of activities by faculty at IRIS and UNAVCO members and affiliates.

While international seismological, geodetic, and related geophysical development draws from and leverages the IRIS and UNAVCO facilities, ultimate success lies with the IRIS and UNAVCO communities. 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. IRIS and UNAVCO members and international partners may be in a unique position to access financial resources not directly available to IRIS and UNAVCO. 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 and UNAVCO are in a unique position with facilities operation linked to convening authority among the US academic community, representational governance structures, and demonstrated commitment to community-based initiatives.

Carrying out this initiative will require dedicated effort, oversight, coordination, and resources. It requires a permanent committee of active individuals with international experience and interest who hold the primary responsibility of driving forward this endeavor. The committee should include international representation and should have active liaisons with existing IRIS and UNAVCO governance structures.


In support of the missions of IRIS and UNAVCO, the Committee will develop partnerships and collaborations that build infrastructure and human capacity in low- and middle-income countries for seismological, geodetic, and related geophysical research, workforce development, 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:

  • Promote collaborative partnerships and relationships with government agencies, development banks, academic institutions, industry, and private foundations.
  • Facilitate establishment of sustainable permanent or semi-permanent seismic, geodetic, and other geophysical networks.
  • Promote the open exchange of geophysical data.
  • Promote growth in workforces by running workshops, organizing exchanges, and developing education and training resources.
  • Serve as a link between IRIS and UNAVCO Foreign Affiliates, Core Programs, Voting Members, and Educational Affiliates.
  • Develop funding models and identify resources to support activities.


Members of the Committee are appointed by and report to the IRIS and UNAVCO 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, UNAVCO core programs, and the interests of the Voting Members.