Standing Committee Meeting Report PASSCAL

March 2022

PASSCAL Standing Committee Meeting Summary
Spring 2022 Virtual Meeting (March 8, 9, 11, 2022)


Committee Members Present: Sam Hansen (chair), Lee Liberty, Marianne Karplus, Emily Wolin, Rob Evans, Andy Parsekian, Weisen Shen, Brad Lipovsky
Committee Members Not Present: Max Bezada, Timothy Bartholomaus

Ex Officio Members: Paul Winberry (PSTC chair)
Board Liaisons:  Phil Wannamaker (Polar Board Liaison), Anne Trehu (PASSCAL Board Liaison)

IRIS Staff and Observers:  Kent Anderson (IRIS-Portable Program Manager), Bob Woodward (IRIS President), 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. (Hansen): Select a PASC member volunteer to participate in the upcoming DS workshop on plans for data under EarthScope. [Marianne Karplus volunteered]
  2. (Anderson): Propose a new, lower target for maintenance of short-period systems at PASSCAL to better reflect current and future usage by the community
  3. (Anderson): Assemble a table comparing SAGE-II Year 5 Portable budget with past years’ budgets
  4. (Anderson/Sweet): Upload presentation slides from the Spring 2022 PASC meeting
  5. (Anderson): Draft a statement in response to Board Guidance for PASC approval on 3/11
  6. (Sweet): Review governance inputs discussed that may not already be included in last fall’s SWOT document
  7. (PASC): Respond to Kent/Sam with comments on the draft response to Board Guidance by Wednesday, March 16th
  8. (Hansen): Ask Elisabetta to include PSTC in upcoming ESCO governance activities
  9. (Karplus): Attend upcoming data licensing and citation workshop as PASC representative


  1. PASC votes to approve the Fall 2021 Meeting Summary/Action Items
    • Missing Bezada, Bartholomaus, and Lipovsky
  2. PASC votes to approve the SAGE-II Year 5 budget as presented
    • Missing Bezada, Bartholomaus, Wolin
  3. PASC votes to approve the proposed current year spend plan
    • Missing Bezada, Bartholomaus, Wolin
  4. PASC votes to approve the Rapid Response procurement plan as presented
    • Missing Bezada, Bartholomaus, Wolin)
  5. PASC votes to approve lowering the short-period systems target from 200 to 100
    • Missing Bezada, Bartholomaus, Wolin
  6. PASC votes to approve the Care & Feeding letter as presented
    • Missing Bezada, Bartholomaus, Wolin

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 spring meeting.  This agenda contained several routine items (e.g. Fall 2021 PASC meeting summary and action item status report) as well as a request to review and approve the charges to the Portable Committees (PASC, PSTC, EMAC, QAAC).  All Consent Agenda items were approved at the start of the first day of the spring meeting [Motion #1]

  1. Respond to Board Guidance

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

  • Recommendation for the two additional years of the current SAGE award (FY24 and FY25)
  • Update the list of priorities for use of any carryover or end-of-year funds
  • Identify the most valuable roles for governance in a new merged EarthScope Consortium (ESCO) facility
  • Review and approve your committee charges

Recommendations for FY24 and FY25

The PASC recommended three priorities during the 2 additional years added to the current SAGE award.

  • Priority 1: Continuation of base funding for core portable operations (PASSCAL, MT, SSF, and Polar)

The PASC strongly urges no changes to the base level of effort, with associated funding required to continue and sustain the current capabilities for the remainder and extension of the SAGE-II award.

  • Priority 2: Continued enhancement of the base instrumentation

Current and ongoing enhancements have brought welcome improvements to the facility and the capabilities it supports.  The PASC suggests that we continue the following activities:

  • Recapitalization of broadband systems
  • Capitalization and growth of the MT instrument pool
  • Assess demand of other core systems for growth opportunities (nodes, multi-channel systems, etc.)
  • Priority 3: Seek opportunities to advance capabilities at PASSCAL

The PASC requests IRIS seek funding to evaluate new capabilities and facilitate innovated processes and procedures to expand the utility of the SAGE facility for the future.  Suggested potential areas for expansion include: Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) instrumentation, Near-Surface Geophysics instrumentation, Multi-channel systems and other equipment used for educational and DEI efforts, Coordination with UNAVCO to standardize engineering, support, and integration of common station infrastructure.

Update list of priorities for carryover and end-of-year funds

The PASC also reviewed and approved a spend plan for use of carryover and end-of-year funds.  The spend plan targeted recapitalization of the heavily used broadband systems, as well as additions to the fully utilized node pool.

Identify most valuable roles for governance in merged EarthScope facility

The PASC provided a detailed SWOT (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) document on governance structures in EarthScope to the Fall 2021 Cocom based on a lengthy discussion during the Fall PASC meeting.  We revisited that document, and the PASC concurs with that initial input and hopes that the Board reviews that material at their upcoming meeting.  In the near future, PASC Chair Hansen is planning to meet with the chair of the GSNSC and the chair of the Geodetic Infrastructure Advisory Committee at UNAVCO to begin discussions on merged governance moving forward.  The PASC Chair will also represent the committee at the upcoming April governance workshop.

The committee also felt that we should strengthen our opportunities to expand inclusion of under-represented groups as participants in community-based governance.  Ideas included: governance presence at booths and webinars, creating avenues for entry into governance for early career scientists, considering stipends to encourage governance participation by members with limited time and/or finances.

Review and approve your committee charges

The PASC reviewed and approved charges for the following groups: PASC, EMAC, SSFAC, PSTC, and QAAC.  We note that the EMAC and QAAC have recently updated their charges.  Charges for all have been approved in their current state.

  1. Review Program Status

The committee received status updates on current activities for the Portable Program (PM Anderson), the MT Program (PM Frassetto), the PASSCAL Instrument Center (Beaudoin), the Seismic Source Facility (Kaip), and the Polar Program (Anderson/Winberry).

IRIS-wide Status

IRIS President Woodward provided a quick update on the current SAGE-II Year 4 budget spending.  IRIS is expecting the solicitation for the Future Geophysical Facility to be released in Spring 2023.  IRIS is also awaiting a formal 2-year extension of the current SAGE-II award by the National Science Board.  IRIS President Woodward also provided a brief update on the status of the upcoming merger with UNAVCO.

Portable Program Update

PM Anderson provided a quick budget status update for the current year.  He also reviewed the current status of the next-gen instrumentation efforts: wavefield imaging (> 3,000 nodes and 200 broadband systems), and rapid response (procurement plan presented for PASC approval).  Anderson also reviewed the recent feedback received from NSF following the 2021 Management Review.

Anderson informed the PASC that NSF has asked for a cost recovery plan to be developed that would seek payment from non-NSF users of the facility.  This will be a big change to how PASSCAL operates.  Implementation is likely still a few years away, but planning is already underway.

Lastly, Anderson updated the PASC on new restrictions that prevent shipping to any countries designated as Level 4 by the Dept of State.  Shipment to Level 3 countries now require written approval from NSF.  These levels change on a weekly basis, and right now most countries are either Level 3 or Level 4 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Magnetotelluric Program Update

PM Frassetto briefed the PASC on recent changes to the EMAC, with Kerry Key assuming the new chair position.  Over a dozen long-period MT instruments are now at the PIC, with 6 wideband systems on hand as well.  We expect to receive another 7 or so wideband systems this year, with 8 more next year.  NSF has recently funded 3 MT awards and 1 NCE that are using the SAGE MT instrumentation.  New software tools for handling MT metadata will be rolled out later this year.  An MT short course is planned for this fall at the PIC and will introduce future facility users (students, early career faculty) to MT instrumentation, field deployments, and data analysis.  Current and next year budgets are on track.

PASSCAL Instrument Center Update

Director Beaudoin provided a brief update on the status of activities at the PIC, including support for a robust number of experiments this year (39 new, 51 continuing).  Instrument usage plots show robust usage of broadband systems moving forward, with declining requests for short-period systems.  The PASC tasked Kent with developing a proposal to lower the short-period performance target to allow PIC repair resources to focus on broadband systems as a higher priority than to repair the underscribed short period sensors [Action Item #2].  Following review of Kent’s proposal, the PASC voted to approve it [Motion #5].

Seismic Source Facility Update

Director Kaip reviewed current budgets, which are on track.  Many funded projects that the SSF is supporting have been delayed due to COVID, which has had a knock-on effect on budgets since those support funds only come through once the projects deploy.  He also mentioned the ongoing limitations for supporting FRES proposals due to the way SSF funding is currently routed.

Polar Facility Update

PM Anderson and Winberry provided a quick update on the polar program.  Recent Antarctic field seasons have been severely impacted by COVID, with just a few staff deployed for full-season deployments.  The Polar Science & Technology Committee (PSTC) met recently and is working to update the current polar facility plan to include seismic and geodetic needs – will most likely be an addendum rather than a complete re-write of the plan.  The Greenland IceSheet Monitoring Network (GLISN) was again not selected for funding by NSF, and they have asked us to transfer current stations to other operators or demobilize them.  Non-adopted stations may begin demobilization in the 2023 season.

  1. Review SAGE-II Year 4 Spend Plan

PM Anderson presented a spend plan for the remainder of the current year’s budget.  The PASC reviewed and approved this spend plan with any positive variance to be applied to increase the planned procurements for broadband and nodal systems [Motion #3].

  1. Review SAGE-II Year 5 Budgets

PM Anderson presented the proposed SAGE-II Year 5 budget for PASSCAL, Polar, MT, and Frontiers.  The committee requested that he provide a comparison with prior year budgets [Action Item #3] and then voted to approve the Year 5 budgets as proposed [Motion #2].

  1. Review Rapid Response Procurement Strategy

A proposed procurement plan for rapid response instrumentation was presented to the PASC.  After a brief discussion, the committee voted to approve the procurement plan [Motion #4].

  1. Provide Feedback on Cost Recovery Implementation

PM Anderson presented the latest portable program cost recovery plan that was recently shared with NSF.  The goal of this cost recovery is to encourage non-NSF users of the facility (primarily targeting other federal agencies) to contribute to the operations and investments in the facility.  The current recovery plan includes a tiered model that charges different amounts to different types of users and recovers costs associated with facility operations and amortized equipment investment.  Implementing cost recovery will be a significant change to PASSCAL operations and will require significant oversight to manage and administer.  The timeline for implementation is still uncertain and may not begin until the start of the next cooperative agreement in 2025.  The PASC discussed the importance of maintaining free access to instrumentation for students and post-docs and for educational exercises.

  1. Renew Input on “Care and Feeding” Document

The PASC reviewed a community letter that was composed in early 2020 in response to concerns around dirty and damaged equipment that was being returned to the PIC.  This letter emphasized the responsibilities of PIs to care for the equipment and return it in good condition.  In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we decided to hold the publication of the letter until operations returned to normal.  After a short discussion, the committee voted to approve the letter as presented and this will go back to the board for reapproval [Motion #6].