Standing Committee Meeting Report PASSCAL

March 2018

Call 1: Tuesday, March 20, 2018 – Meeting started at 1PM mtn time


Committee Members Present: Susan Schwartz (Chair), Kate Allstadt, Beatrice Magnani, Brandon Schmandt, Eric Sandvol, Paul Winberry, Zach Eilon
Members not present:  Steve Holbrook
IRIS Staff and Observers:  Kent Anderson (IRIS-program manager), Justin Sweet (IRIS- scribe), Bruce Beaudoin (PASSCAL-NMT), Sue Bilek (NMT), Galen Kaip (UTEP)
Other observers who attended all or part of meeting:  Donna Shillington (BoD liaison)

Action Items from call #1

  1. (Sweet) Distribute a copy of the current out-brief questionnaire to the PASC
    Status:  Accomplished – distributed to PASC and placed on PASC webpage
  2. (Anderson) Work with Bruce and Sue to draft a policy for how newly acquired nodes are to be made available to already scheduled node PIs and/or whole community
    Status:  Accomplished – draft policy provided to PASC for call #2 and approved.
  3. (Anderson) Draft a prioritized spend plan for any carryover the BoD makes available from other programs
    Status:  Accomplished – Spend plan presented and approved by PASC


  1. The PASC moves to approve Fall 2017 PASC meeting minutes [unanimously approved]
  2. The PASC recommends that given the needs of the community for more nodal sensors and the other needs of the program have been met for M&S spending, the program manager spend all SAGE year 5 projected program variance on more 3C Zland nodes [unanimously approved]

Meeting Objectives

  • Review and approve minutes and action items from Fall 2017 meeting
  • Address SAGE-related programmatic issues
  • Provide prioritized list of uses for unspent SAGE funds
  • Review NGEO year 1 proposed budget
  • Review/Revise the PASSCAL Scope Management Plan

Welcome and introductions

PASC Chair Schwartz begins the call with a welcome to the 3 new members (Eilon, Sandvol, Winberry).  She also provided a brief update on the NGEO proposal, which we hope to have a final decision on later this spring. 

Action items from last meeting
All action items completed or near completion.  Schmandt will follow up on AGU ECI interface and Anderson will provide a draft revised Scope Management Plan at the next call.

Program Management Update
Performance Targets and Usage Trends
Kent Anderson provided an update on the portable program.  He reported the numbers of new/existing portable experiments and noted that all PASSCAL performance targets were met for Q4 of 2017.  Kent also presented some instrumentation usage plots which showed that the number of supported PASSCAL experiments has decreased by approximately 25% over the past 6 years.  This drop appears to be related to a reduction in NSF funded work.  At the same time, PASSCAL has seen an increase in the number of experiments that are self-funded (university) or funded from other sources.

Other questions and clarifications were answered regarding the written Program Manager’s Report provide prior to the meeting.

Experiment Outbriefs
Justin Sweet briefed the PASC on the results of recent experiment outbriefs with PASSCAL PIs, including positive and negative feedback received.  Metric ratings were also shared, all of which have been trending higher (better) over the past year.  Although these are gathering very helpful and constructive feedback – which the management team is using – the original intent was to see if this was a valid, quantifiable metric to suggest to NSF as a “quality of service” performance metric for the program.  PM felt that although eventually, this could be valid, it was not ready to suggest for the last year of SAGE.  We will consider this for NGEO.  Sandvol asked about the content of the outbrief questionnaire and an action item was assigned to Justin to share a copy of the questionnaire with the PASC (Action Item #1).

PASSCAL Instrument Center Update
Bruce Beaudoin and Sue Bilek provided an update on the state of affairs at the PIC, including several trend plots showing the number of instrument requests and funded instruments.  Trends for Broadband instruments showed that although requests have been increasing, the number of funded experiments have substantially dropped from ~650 BB’s out per year to ~250 (leaving ~400 BB’s available and on the shelf – offering zero wait time).  SP trends show similar increase in requests and only a slight drop in funded experiment levels.  Some of these requests may represent double-booking for experiments that have been proposed multiple times.  Texans have seen a downtrend in usage, with no requests for Texans beyond July 2018 at this point.  Trend plots for the nodes show that PASSCAL nodes are fully subscribed out through the end of 2019.  Most PI’s are limiting their requests to the current number of nodes in the pool, but a few have made requests at the level of current Texan pool (~3,000 nodes).  Bruce also discussed recent staff changes at the PIC (departures and new hires) and described the imminent release of a new stationXML metadata generation tool (Nexus).  He also mentioned the recent arrival of much of the GEOICE equipment (Fairfield nodes (200), Nanometrics compacts/centaurs (~60)) specifically for polar use.  He highlighted a few recent issues, including issues with Nanometrics 120PH sensors and cables, and domestic shipping problems with the Fairfield nodes (dangerous goods due to onboard lithium batteries).

UTEP Seismic Source Facility Update
Galen Kaip provided an update on UTEP SSF activities since the fall 2017 PASC meeting.  Both Steve Harder and Galen traveled to the fall AGU meeting and to San Antonio for blaster certification training.  He mentioned ongoing testing of different types of sources, including a P&S source which was used on a recent SSF-supported experiment in Colorado.  Upcoming SSF projects planned for Antarctica, Australia, Texas, Utah, and California.  He mentioned issues with internal Texan batteries failing due to their age.  He also mentioned that education-related projects have been cut due to lack of funds.  Galen also asked the PASC for guidance on what metrics would be used to evaluate the performance of the SSF.  Schwartz suggested the committee discuss this during the next call (April 10th) with an eye towards metrics that could be implemented as part of NGEO.

Budget Status for SAGE Year 5
Kent provided an update on the budget status for SAGE year 5 (Oct 2017 – Sept 2018).  Current spending is on track, and the program is aiming to leave nothing on the table at the end of the FY.  Accumulated variances over the course of SAGE totaled $290k for NMT and $416k for IRIS.  UTEP had no accumulated variance.  Most of the NMT variance will be spent down by the end of SAGE on maintenance and supplies.  The IRIS variance will also go towards completing the M&S spend plan, and the remaining will be proposed below.

NGEO Year 1 Proposed Budget
Kent provided an update on the proposed budget for year 1 of the NGEO award.  With no final decision from NSF on the NSF award, our board guidance is to work towards implementing this budget until advised differently from NSF.  This is a still a proposal under review, so no notes are provided.

Discussion of Uses for PASSCAL Current Variance
Kent kicked off the discussion of potential uses for the positive variance in the IRIS Portable budget.  Given the trends in instrument usage and the need to replace the now obsolete Texan pool, he proposed that the balance of funds be used to purchase additional 3C Fairfield nodes to increase the size of PASSCAL’s heavily over-subscribed node pool (currently 63 nodes).  After a constructive group discussion on this proposal, Schwartz moved that the PASC vote to approve spending the positive variance immediately on more 3C Fairfield nodes.  All other PASC members voiced their approval, and the motion was passed unanimously.  Anderson brought up the question on how new nodes would be rolled out to the community considering that several experiments are already scheduled and some PI’s could not get all the instruments they wanted.  After much discussion, the SC directed Anderson to provide a few options to consider for this roll out policy (Action Item #2).

Discussion of Prioritized List of Uses for any IRIS Potential Variance
Assuming that other programs within IRIS may have positive variances, the Board advised us to establish a prioritized list of programmatic needs that may require unspent IRIS funds.  The group discussed several potential items including a new P&S hammer source for the UTEP source facility, more nodes, and the procurement of evaluation sensors for intermediate period sensors.  The committee asked Anderson to draft a prioritized list for their review during the next call (Action Item #3).


With all objectives met for this meeting, the meeting adjourned at ~3:15 mountain time.


Call 2: Tuesday, April 10, 2018 – Meeting started at 1PM mtn time


Committee Members Present: Susan Schwartz (Chair), Kate Allstadt, Beatrice Magnani, Brandon Schmandt
Members not present:  Steve Holbrook, Eric Sandvol, Paul Winberry, Zach Eilon
IRIS Staff and Observers:  Kent Anderson (IRIS-program manager), Justin Sweet (IRIS- scribe), Bob Woodward (IRIS IS Director), Rick Benson (IRIS DMC), Bruce Beaudoin (PASSCAL-NMT), Sue Bilek (NMT), Galen Kaip (UTEP),
Other observers who attended all or part of meeting:  Donna Shillington (BoD liaison)

Action Items from this call

  1. (Kent) Draft a bulk-mail announcement that will describe node use policy and explain what PIs need to do to request more nodes and share with PASC for feedback.
    Status:  Open
  2. (Kent) Write up a recommendation to EPOSC for PASC approval regarding the purchase of additional geode systems for educational usage.
    Status:  Accomplished – Working with EPO management on specific spend plan
  3. (Kent) PASC to provide feedback to Kent on draft NGEO SMP.  Kent to present a revised document for PASC for the fall meeting.
    Status:  Open
  4. (Kent/Bix) Update the charter and membership for the ASWG, and share with Susan before presentation to ISSC, CoCom and Board.
    Status:  Open
  5. (Kent) Contact the folks at DURIP to get clarification regarding seismic research in the current solicitation and also inquire about IRIS eligibility.
    Status:  Open
  6. (Kent) Portable SIG at IRIS workshop to include summary of community needs (as gathered by PASC staff last fall) and seek additional input from community at SIG.
    Status:  Open
  7. (Justin) Distribute doodle poll for face-to-face PASC meeting in October 2018.
    Status:  Accomplished – waiting on final participation prior to selecting dates

Meeting Objectives

  • Approve prioritized spending plan for SAGE funds
  • Approve recommendation for node pool growth policy
  • Review draft NGEO Scope Management Plan
  • Provide input/recommendations to ISSC

Node Growth Usage Policy

Kent presented the PASC with a draft node usage policy which included accommodation for the growth of the pool over time.  This policy was assembled with direct input from the PASSCAL facility manager (Bruce Beaudoin) and PASSCAL PI (Sue Bilek).  The proposed policy was to maintain the current instrument usage policy—namely: nodes to be distributed on a “first funded, first served” basis.  As additional nodes are added to the pool, a bulk-mail announcement would be sent out so that everyone in the community is informed at the same time.  PIs that are already on the schedule to use nodes would be allowed to add the additional nodes to their experiments without having to get back in line (i.e. they would have priority to add nodes since they have already been funded & scheduled).  The PASC discussed this policy and if there were alternatives that might fairly make more nodes available to more community members sooner.  Ultimately, the committee decided to approve the draft node usage policy and maintain the existing instrument usage policy of “first funded, first served”.  Kent offered to draft a bulk-mail announcement announcing the node usage policy and to bounce it off the PASC before sending (Action Item #1)

Instrumentation Services Update
Bob Woodward provided a quick summary of pan-IS activities for the committee.  TA-Alaska now fully deployed as of Sept 2017 (280 stations in all).  MT-TA is nearing completion, with final deployment planned for the northern Great Plains in summer/fall 2018.  GEOICE equipment has now all arrived at the PIC, effectively doubling the size of the polar pool.  GLISN is in the process of preparing a renewal proposal that will hopefully be submitted to NSF soon.  CEUSN is preparing to transfer O&M of the network over to ASL this fall.  IRIS is working with LLNL on capacity building in the Caucasus region and Central Asia.  IRIS is serving as an advisor to DOE as and countries in the region as part of this process.  Finally, IRIS is working on another capacity building project in Myanmar/Bangladesh with USAID.  It is unclear at this point if this last project will end up happening or not.

Polar Update
Kent and Rick provided an update on polar activities.  IRIS is proposing to retain the current PNSC governance structure (joint with UNAVCO) through NGEO.  The PNSC has not met yet this year and is holding off until NGEO is settled.  Topics likely to be discussed by the PNSC include: 1. strategic vision update for IRIS/UNAVCO polar under NGEO, 2. polar support letter structure, 3. need for a permanent point of contact at OPP (non-rotating), 4. upcoming renovation of McMurdo Station and potential impacts on IRIS/UNAVCO operations there.  PNSC will be looking for another polar seismologist to replace Sam Hansen’s position as she has moved on to the IRIS Board.  Finally, the Mt. Erebus permanent seismic network was discussed.  NSF has requested that IRIS provide a proposal to install a permanent network on Erebus and is currently seeking funds to make this happen.  IRIS is hoping to schedule a community meeting on this topic adjacent to the upcoming IRIS Workshop.

Data Services Update
Rick Benson provided an update on the current size of the data archive and the portion of that which comes from portable deployments (26%).  Last year, nearly 1.2PB of data were shipped by the DMC, 11% of which were from portable deployments.  The DMC has recently purchased additional data storage space and are in a good position to begin accepting large N / nodal experiment datasets.  The auxiliary data center at LLNL is now fully up and running, with load balancing of data requests in effect between there and the DMC in Seattle.  Rick mentioned 2 staff retirements (Edmonds and Wood) and that they will be replaced with a single position focused on PH5 development.  Speaking of PH5, web services are now enabled on all PH5 archived datasets.  In addition, the DMC is working to expose the PH5 archive to MUSTANG so that metrics will be run on those datasets just like in the standard data archive.  This process is not yet complete, but the DMC hopes to have it running within the next few months.

Spend Plan Discussion
Kent briefed the PASC on the current spend plan priorities that the committee had agreed upon for any SAGE carryover made available from other programs by the Board.  After discussion, the committee agreed to keep the current prioritization of: 1. P&S Source, followed by 2. Additional 3-C nodes.  Kent also informed the PASC of carryover funds from EPO that they would like to put towards the purchase of additional multi-channel systems at PASSCAL that are often used for class exercises and field demos.  The current inventory of these systems is presently fully subscribed, so adding to the pool would help.  The PASC approved the issuing of a recommendation to the EPOSC that the purchase of multi-channel systems with their carryover funds would be welcome (Action Item #2).

Scope Management Plan Discussion
Kent presented the PASC with a draft Scope Management Plan (SMP) for NGEO, fulfilling an action item from the Fall 2017 PASC meeting.  The draft NGEO SMP was organized around: 1. Governance setting the strategic priorities, 2. Management guidance for implementing budgets, and 3. Continuous interactions at the “goal posts” move.  The PASC had several comments and questions on the draft SMP, and ultimately decided that the discussions relevant to the new SMP would best be tackled at the next face-to-face PASC meeting.  Kent requested that members send him any feedback they have on the current draft and that he would present a revised document for discussion at the face-to-face PASC meeting in the fall (Action Item #3).

Active Source Working Group Discussion
Kent described the Active Source Working Group (ASWG) and how it had been used in the past for input on topics related to the Seismic Source Facility (SSF).  Moving into NGEO, Kent proposed reactivating the ASWG as a working group that reports to the PASC.  In particular, he suggested the ASWG might provide input to the NGEO SMP for SSF-UTEP operations given the flat funding implications proposed in the current NGEO budget.  The PASC agreed and suggested the names of potential new members for the ASWG.  Kent and Bix offered to update the ASWG charter and membership and to bounce it off Susan before taking it up to ISSC, CoCom, and Board (Action Item #4).

Other Topics Discussed
Justin gave a brief update on past meetings of the Node Owners Group, and on the planned upcoming meeting of this group at the IRIS Workshop.  He also informed the PASC of the submission of an SRL Data Mine article on the Oklahoma Wavefields Experiment, fulfilling an action item from the fall 2017 PASC meeting.

Kent provided the PASC with a quick update on the progress of the 3-C node procurement that the committee approved on its March 20th call.  Kent was required to submit a Memorandum of Negotiation (MON) to NSF, which in the past has often taken months to get approved.  Accordingly, while the funds set aside for additional node procurement are now considered obligated, the actual purchase is still likely months away.

Kent informed the PASC of a recent DOD infrastructure solicitation (DURIP) for projects in the $50k to $1.5m range.  The PASC had questions about whether or not the current DURIP solicitation was aimed at seismic applications and also whether or not IRIS would be eligible to submit a proposal or if those would have to come from individual PIs.  Kent offered to contact the folks managing the DURIP solicitation to get answers to both of those questions (Action Item #5).

Lastly, Kent mentioned 2 planned Special Interest Group (SIG) meetings at the upcoming IRIS Workshop that were related to PASSCAL: 1. Node Owners Group meeting, and 2. Portable Instrumentation Plans.  Susan suggested that it would be useful for him to provide a summary of the community survey of portable instrumentation needs gathered by the PASC in the fall of 2017, and also to solicit additional feedback on their needs from the people attending the Portable Instrumentation Plans SIG at the workshop.  Kent agreed and will plan to make this happen at the upcoming SIG meeting (Action Item #6).

The next PASC meeting is planned for fall 2018, and is scheduled to be a face-to-face meeting.  While the location of the meeting is not yet decided, Justin was tasked with sending out a doodle poll to lock in dates for the meeting sometime in October (Action Item #7).