This appendix contains an unedited transcript of the comments made during workshop’s general comment period. Workshop participants who chose to comment were asked to identify themselves and were allowed 3 minutes to express their views on any topic relevant to the workshop. The views of the commenters do not reflect those of the planning committee, the National Academies, or the workshop sponsors.
National Science Foundation
I have 30 seconds here. So, again, I am Maggie Benoit. I am the SAGE and GAGE program director. I am going to say something that I said during our breakout group just to give a little broader context because something I have heard over and over again and that people at NSF have heard several times is why are we here? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Right? I think a lot of people have expressed that.
I want to be clear IRIS and UNAVCO have provided incredibly fantastic operations and management of our facilities. Their track record is very strong. That really isn’t the question. From the way they have been operating things, that is not broken.
What I think you saw up here in these discussions is that there are a lot of needs that the community has. How to sustain our support of all of these diverse needs as the technology is changing and as the landscape of research is changing, how to do that in a thoughtful and sustainable way, that is what is broken. We are here to try to fix it. I just want to give that broader context of what really is a motivating factor for us being here and having these discussions.
I hope that helps a little bit in better understanding what our goal is here and how we are approaching these discussions. Thank you.
Sandia National Laboratories
My name is Eric Webb. I am from Sandia National Labs. We have been the strong beneficiaries of the student intern programs through IRIS that have allowed us to hire extensively. I want to commend that part of the program and tell you that outside of the NSF community, outside of academia, there are those of us who are beneficiaries. We thank you for that.
The questions that I haven’t heard discussed, which is really a process question connected to how we want to organize this, is how do we deal with the life-cycle costs of either building and sustaining or building and retiring capabilities within this system? I would ask NSF to think carefully about whether any of these organizational structures help with that particular problem.
Maybe I will make one more comment. Those of us who are not in the NSF system—I can’t propose to NSF. We don’t get money from NSF. We are a partner to NSF—want to make sure that the structures that get taken forward for these kinds of research investments are structured in a way that make it easy for us to partner with you.
We have extensive capabilities. We have our own initiatives. It is not always easy to be a good partner with the NSF programs.
The University of Chicago
One thing that has been on my mind a lot lately, and universities everywhere, are federal laws that potentially have a chilling effect on our ability to do international collaborations. That is important to a lot of the activities we have been talking about today.
There is this Office of Foreign Asset Control, OFAC. It keeps essentially a bad guy list. If even unwittingly you have any interaction with those people, it could seriously jeopardize your life and your career. I don’t know the answers, but I think for the kinds of programs that we are talking about this is going to be an increasing threat. It is going to suck up more of the management effort. If you have $170 million NASA budget, you can take 100th of a percent of that and hire a bunch of lawyers. It is going to be a challenge for other organizations.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
I was thinking about innovation. In the field that I was interested in some years ago, which was making optical measurements in the ocean, there is ONR Small Business Innovative Research program, [which] just made tremendous contributions to how the instrumentation was advanced. I don’t think we talked about that much. These are small companies that hired university Ph.Ds. and other graduates. They were operating as a private company so they could take a design, they could do the research on the instrumentation, work with university scientists to see if measurements were realistic, and then figure out how to make these things and then produce them.
Not to a large number of—they didn’t produce millions of them, but they could make money off of it. I think that was a—totally changed how this particular field makes measurements in the field. It was quite a nice example of how you could engage the private sector to really help advance the field.
Melroy & Hollett Technology Partners, LLC
I come from perhaps more of an applied background in recent years. One thing I am particularly interested in is seeing more of a sort of wiring between that applied side—you know, we talked about engineering and the comment that engineering is not innovative. I really disagree.
The opportunity to be talking with that community and saying if you can make something that does this, we can do this. Whether it is wide gap semiconductors, high temperature electronics, fiber optics in the strain application we talked about earlier, nanomaterials in subsurface—there are a lot of areas the engineering community is pursuing. I know everybody has their own interactions with that community, but I think there is an opportunity for the geoscience community to be way, way more organized and inform that community for the benefit of the kinds of programs we are talking about here.
California Institute of Technology
My name is Egill Hauksson. I am with Cal Tech. I just wanted to raise the issue similar to what the last speaker did, of the need of having grad students who know about instrumentation and seismometers and actually able to do—develop instrumentation as part of their Ph.D. Nowadays, most students, they go on a workstation, push some buttons, and data appears. They have no idea where it came from and how it came to be and what are the shortcomings and what are the strengths of that data which they are downloading.
Somehow, I think we, as a community, probably through IRIS and UNAVCO, need to somehow foster students who want to tinker and play with instruments.
National Seismological Center, Chile
My name is Sergio Barrientos. I am coming from the University of Chile. Our model is totally different than you have been talking here. I won’t explain it, but I have a couple of questions. Maybe one question for UNAVCO and IRIS, particularly in that area of recapitalization.
The developments are done, are improved by the scientific community and then they are adopted by the community—adopted by other users. I am thinking, for instance, on early warning—earthquake early warning. There are some instruments, some facilities that were developed for science, that were developed for the advancement of science, and then
they come to be sort of adopted by the community. They could fund an upgrade or they could establish these facilities and maintain them in the long term.
My question is how do you get these agreements with these sort of actors in society that can sustain the long-term operational standards of this equipment? Do you have a voice or an idea on how we can follow?
This is something at UNAVCO we have been working on for quite some time because we have a permanent network of stations along the western part of North America. These stations could also be used for earthquake early warning and tsunami warning. I have been chastised when I gave my talk at SSA to say that all tsunami warning is early so I shouldn’t say that.
What we have tried to do is broker new partnerships with the agencies, the mission-oriented agencies that are responsible for these activities. We first started talking to the USGS. The USGS had its own internal process to examine what assets were available to them in situ right now that were paid for and developed by the NSF. Then, eventually, they invited us to participate in the Shake Alert program. They have been providing a small amount of assets to help upgrade the existing facilities that the NSF has originally built and operated for the last 10 years.
It is really a drop in the bucket, to be frank. You know, we have close to 1,300 stations, about 900 of which are real-time one hertz stations. USGS has provided upgrades for 39 of them.
We also have been trying to work with NOAA, but it has been a little bit more difficult to operate with NOAA. The USGS, of course, was an original partner in EarthScope. We have a memorandum of understanding with the USGS at UNAVCO, which was vetted by the NSF and the USGS simultaneously.
It is very difficult to do this. We have—literally, I have spent probably 25 percent of my time over the last few years to try to move this forward, maybe even more.
Colorado State University
From the seismological side, we also work very diligently and hard with our partners. We have had some successes. They don’t come easy, but the U.S. Geological Survey has a mandate to monitor the world and the nation’s seismicity. We have used that connection many, many times to build long-term partnerships. In some cases, hand off instrumentation through basically working very closely with their organizational structures and their advisory boards and our colleagues in the seismological community. So, we have had some success in this.
Other agencies we have worked hard with are the Department of Defense for Global Seismic Monitoring with some success and the Department of Energy in our partnerships at Livermore and the other national labs.
Yes, it is hard work, but it is really part and parcel of what we do as a community.
The facilities have always played a very important role in brokering those connections with their expertise on the technological and the operational side of instrumentation. It is hard work, but it is viewed as part and parcel of what we should be doing as a community in the interest of national security and public safety.
Ocean Networks Canada
I just wanted to build on this discussion about partnerships. That is one of the things that my organization has been advancing as much as possible. We do partner in the Canadian government with other federal departments, in addition to our foundational scientific funding. We have been able now to install a very dense earthquake early warning network that sits on top of our scientific instrumentation.
What we have learned from that is that it is not only partnering with the federal government and the provincial government in Canada, who is responsible for the alerting, it is the fact that we have now engaged industry partners, particularly large infrastructure operators who are big advocates in Ottawa and in the province of British Columbia. It is those external validators that are helping us move forward very rapidly. In fact, we now are collocating these earthquake early warning sensors not only offshore, but particularly on land with—collocating with GNSS so that should we have the big one, we will be able to actually get a better estimate of magnitude than with those disparately located sensors, just to give you an example.
I think it would be important for the future structure to be able to have a free hand in growing those partnerships. When you do engage at that scale, everyone is on your side.
Hollett: So, I’m going to ask a question. Kate, I am just curious how did you do that, engage those infrastructure owners?
Moran: I hired two people who do it on a regular basis. About 4 years ago, we started by just going to Vancouver, inviting the—I think it was the Business Council—to bring some stakeholders to the table. We simply asked them what would you do with 30 seconds. That is how it started and then it grew from there.
Hollett: These are marine operators, highways, bridges.
Moran: It is the airport, BC Hydro, Fortis, port, BC ferries, the Association of Building Operators, the fire chiefs.
Hollett: The reason I ask is this ties a little bit to something that Jim and I were talking about earlier, which is trying to do a better job of articulating—this may be a bigger geoscience question—why should you—you being sort of a broad, general community or population—why should you care? Why should you care about the geosciences? Why should you care about what we are doing?
Moran: I think we do a really, really good job talking to ourselves. I am not convinced that we do—you know, this is despite all of the outreach we do—is talking to those communities that actually have a more acute investment, community interest level. We do in pockets, in certain places, but I don’t think we do it as broadly as sometimes we can.
That is why I am really, really interested in that. That has impacts on the workforce development. It has impacts on the funding levels and engagement. It has—it crosses everything we are talking about. That is pretty neat.
Instituto de Geofísica, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico
Good afternoon. Enrique Cabral at UNAM in Mexico. I just wanted to share some thoughts I have been having in the last hours. Let me give you some food for thought for this workshop. Maybe you can reflect on those in the coming hours and tomorrow. Let me give you some context so this can be a little bit more clear.
In the past breakout session, it became clear to me that governance is and should be part of; should be an integral part of the facilities management. That is because it is part of the driving force of it. That is one.
The other one would be that the community has been very effective and successful building networks which go outside the U.S. boundaries. That is something that everybody—we all should be happy for that, but that entails some challenges.
The other thing is that from what I see, the U.S. is rapidly becoming not the only large investor in observational facilities internationally. I am looking at China, for example. The Nature has run a series of Chinese things in the last issues. The numbers are just staggering for what they are investing. They are not only—I think they have, at least in Mexico, they haven’t invested heavily in Earth sciences, but I see that it may not be too long until it starts to be that.
In this context, the international organizations that have helped to build this international network should be seen more as partners, which we—at some point, we are all—we feel like we are there. This should reflect on the governance of these facilities. That is what I want to go to my first point.
I think that there are some links that have not been fully developed yet. In particular, I think that the governance should include international partners. I can see that there might be some discussions for and against that. I think that if there—if we are looking for some long-term sustainability and good relationships and they are to be maintained and kept with people like us, which are partners, I think we should start looking into these—integrate that part into the governance model and administration for these facilities. Thank you.
Instituto de Geofísica, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico
Hello, everybody. My name is Xyoli Pérez-Campos, also from the UNAM of Mexico. Currently, I am the head of the National Seismological Network. What I wanted to share with you is I have been very interested in all of the discussion during the day. But then I come from a facility that has transitioned from being focused only on seismic monitoring then kind of research facilitator and now it is on the real-time seismic monitoring again. We are trying to push to be also the main provider for data for science and good quality data for science.
Now, we are on the path to a new transition. All of this discussion has been very useful for me because I am getting all of these ideas of having a scientific board or different ways to manage the center and what could be useful for Mexico.
But then what I want to kind of share with you was my internal thoughts on how to
transition from being a real-time focus on getting the information to authorities and public on seismic monitoring and the other side of the spectrum that is basic science and scientific, goal-oriented facility—so where those two facilities merge and try to become—we don’t have the resources that you have. You want the resources from NASA. We don’t even have the resources from IRIS or UNAVCO. If I can get that, then I might have enough stations in the country to help the science to improve.
Hard to balance basic science and monitoring. That could be our challenge in our countries. Thank you.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Ben Phillips from NASA Headquarters. I just wanted to provide a little bit of perspective on the scale of support for our geodetic data systems. Jeanne mentioned a big number that has resonated with a lot of you. Just to sort of scale appropriately, so CDDIS, the Coastal Dynamics Data Information System that Jeanne referred to that houses our geodetic data, the funding there is a fraction of a percent of what Jeanne referred to.
I think what is relevant for your discussions here is that that is one of a dozen DAACs that operates under this larger EOSDIS management structure. There are some opportunities for them to leverage from scale for things like purchase power for Cloud services that you heard about. It is a different management structure, but as Jeanne said, these are still the data products that are generated by various missions, connected to core disciplines. They can’t be extracted from one another so there are all of these conduits for input and interaction to make sure that connectivity remains.
So you have an additional sort of management structure that requires other types of interfaces, but I guess I just wanted to encourage you not to get too hung up on that scale issue. When it comes to our community, here, and the kind of science problems and data that we are working with, the scale is not so different. What is different is that you have this larger construct where there are some leveraging opportunities.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
I’m Andrea Donnellan from JPL, another big elephant in the room I guess. I think it gives us some perspective coming from NASA and JPL. One thing I haven’t heard here: I heard in our discussion of our breakout is the idea of merging organizations or making them work more closely together [as that] can drive innovation because you are drawing on different fields and the intersection between them.
One thing I haven’t heard discussion of is management structure. I know at JPL and many organizations, you have a president and a vice president or a director and deputy director. We have that all the way down the management chain at JPL. I think we should consider how that management is constructed. If you have a president and a vice president, you can divide the load. You can divide working styles. You can bring expertise from both disciplines. I just want to make sure that idea of complementary expertise is considered into this discussion.
University of Alaska Fairbanks
I just wanted to make sure everyone in the room is aware of the federal advocacy efforts that go on through IRIS and UNAVCO. In addition to the community-driven and sponsor projects that are carried out, as 501(c)(3)s, both organizations have the ability to do direct federal advocacy that benefits the community in a lot of ways.
Sometimes it is for very specific projects like recapitalizing the Global Seismographic Network over the course of many years. Sometimes it is broader than that, like being an additional voice of arguing against some of the restrictions in the America Competes Act of a few years ago.
Those are things that as we look at different management models, I can’t really say how different management models would accommodate those kinds of things. I think it is important to recognize [that] they don’t often get put on the front page of the annual summary for these organizations, but they are really important.