Standing Committee Meeting Report PASSCAL

March 2019

PASSCAL Instrument Center, Socorro, New Mexico
March 6-7, 2019

Committee Members Present: Beatrice Magnani (chair), Sarah Kruse, Zach Eilon, Wes Thelen, Brandon Schmandt, Rob Evans, Eric Sandvol, Lee Liberty, 
Ex Officio Members:   Ninfa Bennington (ex-officio EMAC chair), 
Board Liaisons:  Susan Schwartz (PASSCAL Board Liaison), Rick Aster (Polar Board Liaison).
Members not present:  Paul Winberry

IRIS Staff and Observers:  Kent Anderson (IRIS-program manager), Justin Sweet (IRIS- scribe), Bruce Beaudoin (PASSCAL-NMT), Sue Bilek (NMT), Paul Carpenter (PASSCAL-NMT), Galen Kaip (SSF-UTEP), Andy Frassetto (IRIS-MT Project Lead), Jerry Carter (IRIS-Director of Data Services)

Collected Action Items

  1. (Anderson/Beaudoin) Submit the instrument usage trend plots to the Board
  2. (Sweet) Post a copy of current PASSCAL PI outbrief questionnaire to the PASC webpage for continued access
  3. (Anderson/Kaip) Draft a safety plan for the SSF to distribute to PIs using the facility
  4. (Beaudoin/Liberty) Compile a list of seismic sources/facilities other than SSF that PIs can currently use and their cost-of-service fees
  5. (Sweet) Following Board approval, post node usage policy to the IRIS node resources website
  6. (Anderson/Sweet) Convene a node-owners meeting at this year’s IRIS workshop and SSA meeting (if possible)
  7. (Anderson) Amend draft of the node policy to make more positive – distribute to PASC for endorsement before CoCom and on up to the Board.
  8. (Anderson/Sweet) Distribute the 2017 survey questionnaire and notes from Fall 2017 PASC discussion of community survey results to the PASC
  9. (Anderson) Send around results of NSG survey to the PASC
  10. (Anderson/Sweet) Draft a recommendation for disbanding the PH5WG and submit to CoCom and the Board
  11. (Anderson) Update SAGE-II Y2 budget proposal to incorporate PASC recommendations for submission to CoCom.
  12. (Anderson) Distribute the 2016 PASC recommendation to the Board on changing the SSF funding model from co-PI to a supplement model
  13. (Anderson)  Submit the updated preamble and charge to the Seismic Source Facility Advisory Committee and a list of new membership recommendations to the Board.
  14. (Anderson/Chavez/Taber/Kruse)  Investigate potential to create and support a “land streamer” for urban seismic investigations – coordinate with EPO urban geophysics initiative.


  1. Motion:  PASC moves to approve the SAGE-II Y2 budget with amendments as discussed during the meeting [unanimously approved]
  2. Motion:  PASC moves to endorse the revised DS data policy [unanimously approved]
  3. Motion:  PASC moves to disband the PH5 working group [unanimously approved]
  4. Motion:  PASC moves to approve the revised SSFAC preamble, charge, and new suggested membership and send to the Board for approval [unanimously approved]

Meeting Objectives

  • Review SAGE-II budget status, including how the budget is built
  • Provide recommendations for SAGE-II Y2 budget for portable program
  • Review scope management plan
  • Approve node usage policy
  • Approve revised DS data policy
  • Interaction with PIC staff

Welcome and Introductions
PASC Chair Magnani welcomes all to the meeting and kicks off round the table introductions.  Anderson acknowledges and welcomes incoming DMC Director Jerry Carter to the meeting and gives an overview of the meeting agenda, including time for PIC staff interactions on Thursday afternoon.

Action items from last meeting
All action items completed or near completion.  MT data policy is still being crafted/discussed and will be shared with the PASC once complete.

The PASC reviewed the minutes from the fall 2018 PASC meeting but did not vote on their approval – will be accomplished virtually.

Program Management Update
Experiment Numbers and Usage Trends
Kent Anderson provided an update on the portable program.  He reported the numbers of new/existing portable experiments and noted that the facility is seeing an uptick in the numbers of new experiments compared to this time last year.  Kent also reviewed data on sources of funding for PASSCAL experiments, which show a large increase in University/Self-funded experiments concurrent with a drop in NSF-funded experiments.

Performance Metrics and Experiment Outbriefs
Kent provided detail on portable performance metrics the facility is required to meet under the NSF SAGE award.  Performance metrics cover availability of broadbands, short periods, Texans, and multi-channel systems.  All performance metrics were passed for 2018Q4.  The Board has requested a new performance metric associated with node availability as well as a “Quality of Service” metric derived from ongoing experiment outbriefs.  Kent proposed that the node metric be targeted at 85% of the pool available—the actual number of available nodes will thus scale as the pool size grows.  Justin gave an overview of ongoing experiment outbriefs, which include open-ended questions for general feedback and specific questions with rankings to generate numerical metrics on facility performance.  The PASC requested that Justin distribute a copy of the current outbrief questionnaire (Action Item).  At this point, PI participation in these outbriefings is voluntary and not all experiments have been outbriefed, though the intention is to reach this goal.  Since 2016, 49 out of 64 PIs have participated, with 2 refusals.  Most feedback has been very positive, with areas for potential improvement spanning everything from instrument availability, to shipping, to finding buried nodes in the field.  The Quality of Service metric was proposed to target a score of at least 4 in all categories for the quantitative part of the experiment outbrief.  These two new metrics were presented to NSF for their approval.

SAGE-II Budget Status
Kent described the current budget status at the halfway point of the first year of SAGE-II.  The materials and supplies budget (newly augmented under SAGE-II) has been supporting portable instrumentation well.  The program is currently projecting a positive variance resulting from unfilled positions at the PIC.  The PASSCAL spend plan is accounting for the projected variance and Management will work with Governance on guidance for additional projected variance spending.

Safety Plan
Kent introduced an outline that is intended as a training device to help PI’s create a safety plan for their field work.  This was developed following input from PIC and Alaska TA staff.  The PASC suggested that it might be useful for the SSF to also have a safety plan outline specific to active source experiments which could be shared with PIs prior to their deployments (Action Item).

PASSCAL Instrument Center Update
Bruce Beaudoin provided an update on the state of affairs at the PIC, beginning with recent staffing changes.  Recent hires included new staff covering admin, data, and logistics.  The PIC currently has 3 open positions (data, MT, and a TBD hardware position) which are in various states of being filled.  Bruce presented data delivery statistics to the DMC, ongoing Antarctic support, and instrumentation updates.  In regards to new hardware, the facility has recently received a new MT system which is currently undergoing testing.  PASSCAL has also recently acquired a Sensors and Software Noggin ground-penetrating radar (GPR), 2 additional Geodes, and several Silicon Audio sensors.  Approximately 460 new 3-C Zland nodes were procured in 2018Q4, increasing the PASSCAL node pool to 733 (200 of these are GEOICE owned).  Node support infrastructure was updated with Frontier Wavefield imaging funds – expanding the node charging/data offload capabilities from 32 to 160 nodes (simultaneous) – and adding a larger server system and a 48TB RAID storage system.  This will vastly improve node turnaround time and improve node availability.

Node Operations
PASSCAL has been exploring several options for improving node operations in the field, including direct data offload to PH5, in-field node charging and data offload, and a shipping container solution for nodes.  Shipping nodes by air and overseas remains an area with many unanswered questions.  At present PASSCAL nodes have not been shipped overseas, other than to Antarctica.  The facility plans to ship nodes to Myanmar later this year.  Strict IATA shipping regulations will require an IATA-certified packer on-site for all return shipments and this person may need to be a PASSCAL staffer if PIs do not have a certified person on their field team.  Final topics discussed included node charge retention for long shipments, level of effort required at the PIC to support nodes, and the amount of turn-around or buffer time to schedule between node experiments.

The GPS clock rollover issue has already caused older generation Q330s to lose timing and may affect the rest of the pool (including RT130s) at later dates.  New firmware to address this issue has been released by both Quanterra and RefTek and has been tested at the PIC with the procurement of a GPS signal generator that can spoof roll-over dates and times.  PIs with ongoing experiments that may be affected have been contacted and PASSCAL has provided replacement antennas/firmware as needed.

The PASSCAL software suite has recently been reorganized into gitlab, and the facility has migrated to all linux field laptops.  The maintenance database at the PIC is nearing a major release that will incorporate data logger tracking.  PH5 work continues in collaboration with a developer at the DMC.  A new PH5 GUI is currently in beta with performance enhancements is scheduled for a 2019Q2 release and will be packaged for anaconda.  The new stationXML field tool, Nexus, was released in October 2018 and allows users to read and write stationXML.  It has also been packaged for anaconda.

PASSCAL is close to hiring a dedicated MT technician and hope to have that finalized this spring.  We’ve recently converted 180 sq. ft. of office space into a new MT lab space.  The PIC has begun integrating MT instrumentation into the scheduling database for PI requests.  PIC staff are members and/or observers on the hardware and software EMAC working groups.

Trend Plots
Bruce showed instrumentation requests and usage for broadbands, short periods, Texans, and nodes.  Both broadbands and short periods showed steady or even slightly declining usage over the past several years.  The Texans showed significantly reduced usage.  Meanwhile, node usage has continued to grow as the pool size has increased.  In fact, future node requests are not tapering off (as seen for BB, SP, and Texans) which could indicate that future node needs will be even larger than the current pool.  Trend plots will be distributed to the Board as per their request (Action Item).

UTEP Seismic Source Facility Update
Galen Kaip provided an update on UTEP SSF activities since the fall 2018 PASC meeting.  Both Steve Harder and Galen traveled to the 2018 AGU Fall Meeting.  Galen also attended the SITS meeting last October.  Galen and Marianne Karplus traveled to WAIS during the 2018-19 Antarctic season for initial node and explosive source testing for the upcoming TIME experiment.  Their salary while in Antarctica was charged to the TIME project – offsetting the projected negative salary variance for SAGE-II Y1.  A new P&S seismic source was recently procured for the SSF using Frontiers Wavefield Imaging funds.  This should be delivered in the next few weeks.

Current SSF inventory includes 380 Texans, 6 shot boxes, 3 GPS synchronizers, and the incoming P&S source.  A recent issue was encountered related to how the SSF is currently funded.  The NSF FRES solicitation forbids any PI from submitting multiple proposals in the same cycle.  The current cost recovery model for the SSF requires UTEP to be listed as a co-PI on any proposals it supports. Due to the NSF FRES restrictions and SSF current funding model, during the last submission cycle the facility could only partner with one proposal even though it was requested to support 5 different FRES proposals.  In addition to this problem, other issues requiring immediate attention include: ongoing budget issues, and a redesign and buildout of new shooting systems.

MT Update
Andy Frassetto gave an update on the IRIS MT program, which is currently in the process of migrating from an operations center at OSU to PASSCAL.  The current plan is for OSU to provide long-period MT instrumentation and data handling through 1 Oct 2020, after which MT instrumentation will be served out of the PIC.  The EMAC is currently developing an open and transparent framework for future MT usage at PASSCAL.  The MT-TA has wrapped up the 2018 field season by completing the last portion of the 70km-spacing footprint covering the northern Great Plains.  Approximately 550 sites remain to be occupied, mostly in the Southwestern United States.  A recent NASA award was secured for approximately 50+ of those sites to be permitted and occupied in Southern California this summer.  Finally, a new IRIS MT informational page has recently been created, along with a new MT mailing list and an expanded committee (EMAC) page.  The EMAC chair now sits as an ex officio member of the PASC.

Data Services Update
New DS Director Jerry Carter gave an update on IRIS Data Services, beginning with trend plots showing data shipments by request type.  Notably, web services (including the new PH5 web service) continue to grow.  The DMC is expecting a jump in the data holdings due to upcoming node deployments over the next several years.  Currently, 761TB of archive space is ready to accept nodal data.  Recently DS staff have been working with PASSCAL to resolve MUSTANG PH5 issues.  The DMC has also been working with FDSN and partners to de-duplicate data holdings – resulting in more data available through the FDSN federated data centers, while decreasing net load on the DMC.

Budget Presentations
SAGE-II Award Review
Kent kicked off the budget discussions with a review of the budgets as proposed in the NGEO/SAGE-II award.  The PASC was briefed on the proposed budgets for PASSCAL, Polar, MT, Source Facility, as well as the frontier activities of Wavefields and Rapid Response to Geohazards.  A primer on the IRIS budget process and timeline was also presented to educate new committee members on the method of budget production and timing for governance input.

IRIS/NMT/MT SAGE-II Year 2 Budgets
PM presented the proposed budgets for the upcoming fiscal year (Oct 2019 – Sept 2020) – SAGE-II Y2.  In the absence of any budget guidance from NSF, the Board requested that the committees produce a SAGE-II Y2 budget that was as proposed, and another that is flat to SAGE-II Y1.  On the IRIS side of the portable program, this flat budget would represent a small difference (~1.4%) from the proposed budget. 

PIC:  Due to staffing changes and departures, NMT is currently projecting a positive variance for Y1 of the SAGE-II award.  The PIC and PM are working to expand the current spend plan to absorb this variance. 

MT:  The MT SAGE-II Y2 budget was presented and Andy indicated that the 2% reduction for the flat funding scenario should be accommodated by reducing support for a software consultant, leaving the subawards and equipment budgets intact.  The 5-year SAGE-II budget for MT still envisions spending ~$1.4M on instrumentation and ~$191k on MT software. 

SSF SAGE-II Year 2 Budget
Galen presented the SSF SAGE-II Y2 budget and pointed out that due to existing budget cuts, an additional 2% cut would limit the ability of the facility to operate at current FTE levels.  He also pointed out that all non-salary funds had already been removed from his budget, leaving him with nothing left to cut.  The committee inquired about fee-for-service models that the SSF might use to supplement its budget.  Several other source providers currently use models like this for cost recovery, and the PASC requested that a list be compiled along with current rates (Action Item).  The committee also considered the possibility of using some of the SAGE-II Y1 positive variance on the NMT budget to cover shortfalls in the SSF budget.

Scope Management Discussion
Kent emphasized the importance of having an up-to-date set of current capabilities, a philosophy for prioritization, and a process in place for implementing scope changes should that become necessary.  Prior to SAGE-II the scope management plan (SMP) for targeted at making up for the M&S shortfall, did not protect critical core services, did not parse out sub-tasks for the SSF, and did not establish a process for implementing scope changes.  The draft SAGE-II SMP rectifies these shortcomings, and identifies the participants (PASC, management, etc.) in the process and their roles.  Crucially, the new SMP breaks out a list of core capabilities for the facility and a list of facility services and instrumentation capabilities.  This was just an introductory presentation on the scope management plan and no major issues were discussed beside the interest in moving the SSF to “core” status.  This document will be revisited on a regular basis by the PASC.

Policy Updates
Node Policies
Kent presented an updated node usage and support policy and emphasized the need for these policies in light of mixed node experiments utilizing both IRIS and community-owned nodes and the mixed support of nodes could impact our ability to support scheduled experiments.  Additionally, since nodes are considered dangerous goods when shipped, IRIS must follow all legal requirements for their transport to and from the PIC – as each individual node owner must do.   We cannot handle other owners’ dangerous goods, nor can they handle ours.  The policy lays out support provided by PASSCAL to PIs for each of three use cases: 1) Experiments using only IRIS nodes, 2) Experiments using a mix of IRIS and community-owned nodes, and 3) Experiments using only community-owned nodes.  The PASC discussed the draft node policy and one member passed along dissatisfaction with the policy from a particular community node owner.  The PASC recommended that the verbiage be updated to highlight the services that IRIS/PASSCAL would provide to node users, in addition to the services not provided, which were well covered in the draft.  The PASC also requested that the node policy be posted to the Node Resources webpage following Board approval, and that a Node Owners meeting be convened at upcoming meetings (SSA, IRIS Workshop) to communicate the new policy (Action Items).

Data Policy
Jerry Carter presented the revised data acceptance policy for approval by the PASC.  This policy was originally circulated in Fall 2018 and has been revised to incorporate input from the PASC.  Following a brief discussion of non-seismic data formats that could result from MT and near surface geophysics instrumentation at the facility, the PASC moved to endorse the revised data policy with no changes and this was unanimously confirmed.

Strategic Vision Discussion
Kent briefed the PASC on a 2017 community survey that the committee had conducted to solicit input on design goals for the facility with the hope that this could guide future decisions on instrument procurement.  In particular, the survey hoped to capture what needs the community had which were not currently being met by the facility.  The PASC chair encouraged the current members of the committee to informally seek input on this question from their colleagues.  There was a separate community survey conducted in the run up to the NGEO proposal which inquired about near surface geophysics instrumentation needs.  The PASC requested that the 2017 survey questionnaire and results, as well as the NSG survey results be gathered and distributed to the committee (Action Items).

CORES and Community Input
The PASC chair reminded the committee about the upcoming CORES workshop which is soliciting input on the priorities and infrastructure needs for the earth sciences over the next decade.  She stressed the importance of the CORES panel review and encouraged members to be aware of it and of the upcoming CORES workshop if asked to participate.

Working Group Reports
Andy Frassetto provided an update on the Electro-Magnetic Advisory Committee, which recently established 2 detailed technical working groups: one focused on instrumentation, the other on software.  The EMAC is looking to identify workflows and needs to understand the current state of MT instrumentation and software tools to figure out what’s going to work well in a new MT facility.  The goal is to have consensus and path forward by Summer 2019.  Both the PIC and DMC are represented in these working groups.

Kent described transitions underway within the Polar Networks Science Committee—a joint IRIS/UNAVCO committee.  There are 3 new incoming members from the seismic side who have yet to be confirmed.  Paul Winberry is currently the seismic co-chair, and also serves as a member of the PASC.  Rick Aster will continue as the Board liaison to the PNSC.  The PNSC hopes to have a meeting sometime this spring.

Kent described the makeup of the PH5 working group, which was conceived as a joint IS/DS group to help coordinate efforts between the IS and DS sides of PH5 development.  The working group has not met in over a year.  The PASC agreed that the current state of PH5 was known and implemented and that input from the PH5WG was no longer required.  If new instrumentation and data formats in the future require substantial modification of PH5, then the WG could be resurrected.  The PASC moved to disband the PH5WG.  Kent and Justin were tasked with drafting a formal recommendation for CoCom and the Board (Action Item).  As this working group is serving as a joint IS/DS WG, it will be up to the DSSC to confirm the disbandment.

The Board recently advised that the SSFWG should be changed from a working group to an advisory committee to provide on-going, long-term advice on the seismic source facility from community members.  Based on this guidance, Kent provided an updated charge to reflect the change from a WG to an AC.  The PASC requested that Kent also update the verbiage in the preamble to remove the Texan support from the statement of work (Action Item).  The PASC also unanimously moved that in addition to updating the SSFAC charge and preamble, that a new slate of members be sent to the Board for approval.  In light of recent problems the SSF encountered during the FRES proposal solicitation which limited the number of groups that the SSF could support, the PASC also discussed sending a recommendation to the Board that the funding model for the SSF be changed from the current co-PI model to a supplement model.  Kent was asked to distribute the prior recommendation sent to the Board on this topic back in 2016 (Action Item).

Wrap Up
After a short discussion of possible meeting dates and locations for a face-to-face Fall 2019 PASC meeting, the current meeting adjourned early at 11:52am on Thursday, March 7, 2019.