Standing Committee Meeting Report PASSCAL

September 2021

PASSCAL Standing Committee Meeting Summary
Fall 2021 Virtual Meeting (Sept 20-22)

Committee Members Present: Beatrice Magnani (chair), Lee Liberty, Marianne Karplus, Wes Thelen, Rob Evans, Andy Parsekian, Max Bezada, Timothy Bartholomaus, Weisen Shen
Ex Officio Members: Ninfa Bennington (ex-officio EMAC chair)
Board Liaison:  Phil Wannamaker (PASSCAL Board Liaison)

IRIS Staff and Observers:  Kent Anderson (IRIS-Portable Program Manager), Bob Woodward (IRIS President), Jerry Carter (IRIS-DS Director), Andy Frassetto (IRIS-MT Program Manager), Justin Sweet (IRIS-Portable Project Associate), Bruce Beaudoin (PASSCAL-NMT), Sue Bilek (NMT), Galen Kaip (SSF-UTEP)

Action Items

  1. (Anderson/Beaudoin/Sweet): Complete Rapid equipment evaluation and present final staff recommendations to the PASC for consideration - next two months
  2. (Anderson/Bezada): Put together a graphical representation for the committee to use in setting priorities for the SMP before AGU - next two months
  3. (PASC): Provide input on graphical priorities in support of the revised SMP - in preparation for Spring meeting - input from rotating committee members sought prior to leaving committee.
  4. (Anderson): Draft email to the community on new NSF guidance on experiment support in DoS travel restricted countries.  Internal IRIS review then to PASC for comment - immediate.
  5. (Anderson/Kaip): Meet with NSF POs Benoit and Geist to discuss interim plans for SSF proposals for FRES and other solicitations while SSF funding evolution plan is being considered and approved - next month.
  6. (Anderson/Magnani): Prepare report to CoCom on Board Guidance for PASSCAL - prior to CoCom (mid-Oct)
  7. (Anderson/Magnani): Provide recommendations for new committee members to Board (CoCom)


  1. PASC votes unanimously to approve the Spring 2021 Meeting Summary/Action Items
  2. PASC votes unanimously to approve the Seismic Source Facility funding evolution plan
  3. PASC votes unanimously to approve the Texan Distribution Plan as proposed (Karplus recused)

Meeting Objectives

1. Approve Consent Agenda Items

In an effort to maximize group discussion during our virtual sessions, the PASC was presented with a Consent Agenda in advance of the first day of the fall meeting.  This agenda contained several routine items (e.g. Spring 2021 PASC meeting summary and action item status report) as well as a proposed funding model for the Seismic Source Facility to avoid future proposal limitations and bring it more in line with how polar projects are currently funded.  All Consent Agenda items were unanimously approved at the start of the first day of the spring meeting.

2. Respond to Board Guidance

The IRIS Board of Directors requested that the PASC deliberate and provide feedback on five topics:

  • Plans for the two additional years of the current SAGE award (FY24 and FY25)
  • Update list of priorities for use of any carryover funds
  • Recommendations for committee member rotations
  • Identify the most valuable roles for governance in a new merged EarthScope Consortium (ESCO) facility
  • Provide feedback on mechanisms for enhancing bi-directional community engagement and communication around the merger

The PASC recommended prioritizing recapitalization of equipment pools and completion of the MT buildout during the 2 additional years added to the current SAGE award.  They urged NSF to consider implementing the revised SSF funding model (approved during this meeting) and to accommodate this model in a future spending cap increase.  Carryover was prioritized for supporting the ongoing recapitalization effort.  A list of individuals was assembled for each of the 4 PASC member positions that will be rotating in January 2022.  The PASC identified strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to be considered as part of the governance transition under a new merged ESCO.  Finally, the committee outlined a number of communication modalities to the Board that are intended to improve bi-directional communication between the community and the facility.  PASC Chair Magnani and PM Anderson were tasked with preparing a report for CoCom containing PASC response to Board guidance (Action Item #6).

3. Update the Portable Program Strategic Plan

The committee spent a considerable amount of time discussing strategic priorities for the PASSCAL program in light of recent priorities outlined in community vision documents—specifically the Earth-In-Time (CORES) and Portfolio Review (IPRC) Reports.  The committee grappled with how to effectively articulate what they viewed as the most critical components of the PASSCAL facility and how to prioritize those efficiently.  Anderson/Bezada were asked to develop a graphical template (Action Item #2) that PASC members could use to arrange their preferred representation of facility priorities (Action Item #3).  Once completed, the intention is for these combined plans to inform a list of prioritized capabilities in the revised scope management plan.

4. Review/Approve Plan for Recapitalization

PM Anderson provided the PASC with a briefing on PASSCAL recapitalization needs and estimated costs.  The most acute need identified was for new broadband sensors and current recapitalization plans reflect this in prioritizing procurements of those sensors, along with investments in new seismic digitizers.  The facility is hopeful that additional recapitalization funds will be available in future budget years to continue addressing this pressing need.

5. Recommendation on Rapid Response Instrumentation

PA Sweet and PM Anderson updated the committee on instrument testing and evaluation progress that has been happening over the summer as part of the ongoing Rapid Response to Geohazards initiative.  Those evaluations are not yet complete, but based on early indications the committee was presented with one potential procurement model.  The PASC requested that a final procurement recommendation be submitted once instrument evaluations are completed later this fall.  Action Item #1 was assigned to Sweet/Anderson/Beaudoin to produce this recommendation.

6. Recommend Communications Plan for new NSF Policy on High-Risk Countries

Following discussions with NSF Program Officer Benoit, the PASC tasked PM Anderson (Action Item #4) with drafting an email to community members informing them of new NSF guidance for deployments in countries designated as high-risk by the Department of State.  The committee recognized the need to protect community-shared equipment while also noting that currently this guidance would have a significant impact on many international PASSCAL deployments, due to the ongoing COVID pandemic.

7. Meet with NSF PO Benoit and Ask Questions Relevant to Portable Program

The committee welcomed NSF Program Officer Benoit to the meeting for a one-hour question and answer period.  Four PASC members each posed a single question for PO Benoit to respond to.  Topics discussed included: guidance from recent community vision documents, recapitalization and interagency sharing, new policy on shipments to high-risk countries, and the proposed evolution of the funding model for the Seismic Source Facility.  A robust discussion was had around all four topics and the committee thanked PO Benoit for her participation and feedback.

8. Revisit the SSF Evolution Plan

A plan was presented to the committee that would revise how projects utilizing the Seismic Source Facility are funded.  This plan would move away from the current model where the SSF is listed as a PI on proposals, to one where funded proposals would submit a supplemental request to NSF for funds required for SSF support.  This plan was reviewed and approved by the PASC as part of the consent agenda at the start of the meeting.  SSF Director Kaip and PM Anderson were directed to set up a meeting with NSF to discuss interim funding plans for the SSF while the proposed funding model was being considered (Action Item #5).

9. Approve the Texan Distribution Plan

A plan for distribution of the now-retired Texan digitizer pool was shared with the committee.  The proposed plan would divide the current Texan inventory into 4 batches of equipment that domestic educational institutions could request at no cost, other than shipping fees.  PASC Chair Magnani and Portable PM Anderson would review community requests and select recipients.  The proposal was unanimously approved by the committee (PASC member Karplus recused).

10. Recommendations for PASC Member Rotations (Magnani, Evans, Liberty, Thelen)

The committee discussed potential candidates for four PASC positions that will become available at the start of 2022.  Consideration was given to preserving areas of expertise for members who are rotating off, while also attempting to increase the diversity of voices on the committee.  PASC Chair Magnani and PM Anderson were tasked with submitting a list of names to CoCom and the Board for these PASC positions (Action Item #7).  Evans offered to remain on committee for one more year to balance the annual rotation to the regular 3 members.