UNAVCO and IRIS Join Forces for Advancing Geophysics

Beginning in 2019, UNAVCO and IRIS began discussions focused on how both organizations can collectively work together to further advance geophysics support for the community. As our science becomes more convergent, there is benefit to examining how we can support research and education as a single organization. Following initial discussions, the IRIS and UNAVCO Boards reached consensus that the joining of IRIS and UNAVCO is the best option for the research community to continue to conduct and advance cutting-edge geophysics.

This page will be updated with information. Additional information is shared with the community via respective UNAVCO and IRIS email listservs.

Please contact UNAVCO President Rebecca Bendick (bendick@unavco.org) or IRIS President Robert Woodward (woodward@iris.edu) with questions.

August 2020 
UNAVCO and IRIS leadership have spent the past 12 months exploring how to support our current core missions and explore new opportunities for cross-disciplinary science. We believe that a new organization will leverage our current strengths to enable exciting innovations in our core research areas and in new interdisciplinary directions. On August 11, 2020, the UNAVCO and IRIS Boards of Directors voted unanimously to accept terms and bylaws for a future broad geophysics consortium. This vote prepares the way for a vote of the consortium members, which we expect will take place late fall 2020. 

June 2020 
A Community Town Hall was held by UNAVCO and IRIS Presidents (Drs. Bendick and Detrick) and Board Chairs (Dr. Flesch, UNAVCO and Dr. Aster, IRIS). The leadership team shared that they have made excellent progress towards developing a new organization that will leverage the expertise and knowledge of both UNAVCO and IRIS. Discussions have been positive, collaborative, and forward-looking. They stated that it is clear that while there is a long history and deep culture associated with each organization, we will be able to come together to create a new and innovative organization that will make vital contributions to an engaged society, which is resilient to geohazards and is informed by geophysical discovery and global collaboration.

Members of the Negotiation Committee: 

April 2020 
On April 6th and 7th, the joint UNAVCO/IRIS Negotiation Committee held its 3rd meeting. Originally scheduled to be a full day in Chicago, the meeting was successfully held as two, half-day video conferences. As with prior in-person meetings, the discussion reflected the tremendous alignment and collaborative potential of the two consortia. Many discussions were significantly advanced.

  • UNAVCO board member Ronni Grapenthin joined the committee. He replaces UNAVCO Board member Andrea Donnellan.

  • Robert Gagosian joined the meeting to share his experience as the initial President and CEO of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, which formed through the successful 2007 combination of the Consortium for Oceanographic Research and Education (CORE) and the Joint Oceanographic Institutions (JOI). He shared lessons learned from the process and answered questions from the committee.

  • The committee reaffirmed the commitment to a new organization of equals and discussed research on the legal options for the process, with guidance from experienced nonprofit attorneys, including a review of the benefits and costs of several technical variations. The discussion also included a review of the contracts and liabilities of each organization that would inform the legal options.

  • Staff from both organizations shared data on the financials, personnel policies, and benefit packages of each organization to inform discussion of the integration structure and costs.

  • Criteria were discussed for which functions and activities of the new organization might be co-located. Also discussed was developing a community-informed process by which locations would be chosen for these facilities and offices.

  • The committee developed a draft timeline. The timeline will include substantial efforts to inform and engage our members prior to any decisions being made. Subgroups were assigned to further develop the member engagement and transition plans.

  • The next Negotiation Team meeting is scheduled for June 16th and 17th via video conference.

The vision of a strong, combined geophysical consortium is beginning to take shape. We look forward to your questions and input this summer prior to the development of formal recommendations for approval.

January 2020 
On January 28th, the joint IRIS/UNAVCO Negotiation Committee held its 2nd meeting. UNAVCO’s new president, Dr. Rebecca (Becks) Bendick, joined the committee, as did IRIS’ Director of Instrumentation Services, Bob Woodward. The meeting was positive and productive, reaffirming our shared values and the complementary strengths of our two consortia. Topics included:

  • The mission of an integrated geophysical consortium was discussed together with our shared vision of the desired impact to science and society.

  • The similarities and differences in the current bylaws and corporate practices of the UNAVCO and IRIS nonprofits were reviewed. We agreed upon the key elements of bylaws for a combined organization that would serve the needs of our broad community and advance the expansive fields of geodesy and seismology in the future.

  • We began to discuss functional organizational structures aimed at ensuring effective alignment between geodetic and seismologic instrumentation services, data services, education and outreach, advocacy, and the infrastructure undergirding them.

  • We identified issues to be addressed in preparation for the next meeting of the Negotiation Committee including exploring legal options for integrating our corporate entities, as well as options for financial and facility structures.

Throughout the day, it was once more abundantly clear how important the unique capabilities of the respective staff and communities of each organization are to the committee members and how much each organization respects the other. We are excited about our progress, but there is much work yet to be done.

October 2019
In Portland, the UNAVCO and IRIS Boards met and agreed to continue exploring closer collaboration, under the guidance of La Piana as a neutral third-party. The next phase is one in which we need to determine what a new construct might look like. The approach of restructuring will be explored; this may include creating a new entity. As you can imagine, this is a significant task requiring both forward thinking and institutional knowledge. To manage this process, a subset of Board members and facility management will work together over the next six to nine months to examine all possibilities for our path forward. This group is being referred to as the Negotiation Committee. The Negotiation Committee is charged with developing the terms under which combining organizations would occur and developing a vision for a new entity that will leverage the strengths of our existing organizations. This committee will identify all issues and make recommendations that the full Boards will need to consider in determining the path forward.

The Negotiation Committee representatives for UNAVCO include: 

  • Lucy Flesch (Board Chair)

  • Andrea Donnellan (Board Vice-Chair) 

  • Ed Nissen (Board member)

  • Chuck Meertens (Acting President)

  • Glen Mattioli (UNAVCO Senior Management representative). 

IRIS representatives include:

  • Rick Aster (Incoming Board Chair)
  • Bob Detrick (IRIS President)

  • Samantha Hansen (Board member)

  • Susan Schwartz (Board member)

  • Doug Wiens (Board Chair).

It is expected that the full Negotiation Committee will meet four to six times. The final recommendations of this committee will be presented for consideration to the full Board of Directors of each organization. Each Board of Directors will evaluate the recommendations and present any actions to the membership.

Support of the community continues to be a priority for both UNAVCO and IRIS. We are committed to representing and advocating for the best interests of the scientific community and the facility staff. In addition to working collaboratively with UNAVCO during this process, the IRIS Board is committed to transparency and soliciting community input whenever appropriate and possible.

FAQs on the Future of IRIS and UNAVCO