Data Services Newsletter

Volume 16 : No 1 : Spring 2014

Rick Benson - celebrating 20 years at the IRIS DMC

Rick Benson in Brazil
Rick Benson at the IRIS Metadata Workshop in Brazil, 2010.

Congratulations Rick!

This year Rick Benson is celebrating twenty years working at the Data Management Center. Rick is well known around the world at the master data wrangler, also known as Director Of Operations, here at the DMC. Rick is an invaluable part of the IRIS Data Services backbone, and without his careful attention to data integrity and data workflow, thousands of researchers would have been provided with poorer quality datasets.

Rick is almost as famous for his passion of everything related to cycling. His infectious love of everything self-propelled on two wheels permeates the DMC office environment and he has single handedly created a bike friendly atmosphere that keeps many of us here healthier and happier, even in the occasional Seattle downpour. Rick is also known for his ability to jump right in and assist anyone who needs help, whether that be unplugging a blocked drain, painting an office, hanging monitors, or helping you paint your home after hours.

For this newsletter article we asked many of his globally distributed colleagues for testimonials of how Rick has helped them over the decades. We hope this reminds Rick, and everyone else, of how valuable he continues to be. Thank you for your service Rick! Ride on.


Quotes from colleagues around the world

Senior statesman of the cycling world, nicest and most helpful person I have ever known, Admiral of the DMC’s engine room. Rick and I have known each other for over 26 years and it has always been a great pleasure (at least for me!) to work with Rick. Rick’s “Can Do” attitude and tireless effort devoted to IRIS to make sure that the IRIS user community has efficient access to the DMC’s holdings is impressive and so very valuable to the seismological community. Rick seems to always be on duty and ready to help whoever needs help.

It has been my pleasure to know Rick for the better part of three decades. I even knew him before there was a Starbucks in the University District. Does anyone remember that it was primarily Rick’s lobbying of Steve Malone and Ken Creager that resulted in the University of Washington submitting a proposal to that resulted in the DMC being in the land of Starbucks in the first place.

I look forward to many more years of working with Rick and taking our morning walks to Starbucks, especially the coffee part.

- Tim Ahern, Director of Data Services, IRIS DMC

Rick’s positive outlook, can do attitude and incredible working knowledge of the IRIS DMC has been a tremendous asset to the entire seismological community for over twenty years. He has been, and continues to be a joyful interface to the community’s data archive.

- Kent Anderson, Program Manager – Global Seismographic Network, IRIS, Washington DC, USA

Before web-services, it was almost impossible to progressively obtain years of continuous broadband data at a given station, but Rick came up with creative pathways to enable that for researchers looking at the data “between” the earthquakes.

- Mike Brudzinski, Miami University, Oxford, OH, USA

I met Rick at the DMC in 2006, during a visit to get a better idea on how IRIS manages data and metadata, I found him to be very friendly and knowledgeable on all aspects of data management. Since this time he has been extremely helpful in helping sort out issues with the metadata for Australian stations and make all of our data available through IRIS.

- Craig Bugden, Seismologist, Geoscience Australia, Canberra, Australia

Rick succeeds so well in his role at the DMC because he has a rare combination of technical acumen, easy-going disposition, and vivacious management style that enables him to excel in a very demanding role handling the diverse IRIS user community. Working with him these years has been a sincere pleasure.

- Pete Davis, Executive Director, Project IDA, UC San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA

It was a pleasure to work with Rick over the last 20 years, he has always been remarkably responsive and cooperative whatever the matters were.

- Winfried Hanka, GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Potsdam, Germany

How long have I known Rick — hummmm — my memory does not work that far back; how has Rick assisted me over the years — from dropping everything to sort out some data problem I have to driving me to SEATAC to catch a 6 am flight to London.

- Keith Priestley, Dept. of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, England

Daytona 500 – Trans-Atlantic crossing – Flight to the Moon – Visit to Grandma – Downloading data. A successful and safe trip depends on a smoothly running power system under the hood and a reliable map to get you there. Rick Benson is the “Master of the Engine Room” who not only keeps the hardware well-oiled, but is the guide and helping hand who steers you back on course if you happen to get lost along the way.

- David Simpson, IRIS, Washington DC, USA

For 20 years Rick and I have always managed to have a great time while compiling massive amounts of data and tweaking just as much metadata (“monkey grooming” as Rick says). After 2 decades he still refers to me as “the little sister he never had”

- Tyler Storm, ASL, USA

My memories are getting a bit faded and I expect Rick’s are as well, but I first met Rick when he joined the UW seismic processing group as an analyst over 30 years ago, during the initial monitoring of Mt. St. Helens. From the beginning Rick found a positive way to approach every problem, and he was willing to tackle any task. It was always fun to engage in activities with Rick, though I once made the mistake of joining Rick on the beginning of one of his bike tours. Being the person that he is, Rick was kind enough to slow down so that I could at least keep him in sight, and he then took care of everything at our campsite while I nursed my exhausted legs. I have enjoyed working with Rick ever since, and I know I can always go to him when I need a solution to a problem.

- John Taber, Education and Public Outreach Director, IRIS, Washington DC, USA

Rick Benson personifies the heart and soul of the IRIS DMC. He has provided friendly, personal service to the research community for decades and continues to set the standard for how well it can be done. Working with Rick is a genuine pleasure, he is quick to praise the work of others while quietly doing more than most people will ever know. In addition to managing the worlds largest repository of openly available seismological data, Rick has painted, wired, knocked down walls, constructed walls and generally done whatever it takes to keep the DMC running smoothly. I count myself lucky to be able to call Rick a friend and look forward to many more bike rides whenever I can get him to slow to down to my speed!

- Chad Trabant, Director of Projects, IRIS DMC

In some ways this is a difficult assignment, primarily due to the one to two sentence requirement. How do can I characterize a working relationship and friendship spanning two decades working on numerous PASSCAL and realtime network datasets? Instead of trying to recount individual interactions (of which there are many), I would like to call out Rick’s work ethic and professionalism. Rick has provided a tremendous service to the IRIS community by working to improve the quality of the data provided to the community. Even when faced with difficult problems, he keeps his sense of humor as we worked through the issues to arrive at the most efficient solution. Rick is not afraid to get his hands dirty in the sausage making aspects of data management and providing high quality data to the end users. I have the utmost respect for what Rick has accomplished over his career and I feel lucky that I can count on him as a friend.

- Frank Vernon, UC San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA

I have been fortunate to work with Rick (or as Gale refers to him, Benson) in his capacity as the chairman of the IRIS Benefits Committee over the past few years. This is a position that brings no additional pay and gives Rick the unenviable task of recommending to management how to manage our fringe benefit pool while health care continues to eat an ever larger hole in it. As we all know, Rick brings a special enthusiasm to all tasks, even unenviable ones. His sense of humor remains undaunted – I’m always amused by his addressing the Committee as the BeCalm Team, his whimsical apologies for Doodle adjusting time “automagically” and his often insightful salutations that regularly draw a smile. As he bikes ever onward, IRIS is extremely blessed that Rick has been with us for 20 of our 30 years, and I hope many, many more.

- Rob Woolley, Director of Program Support & Special Projects, IRIS, Washington DC, USA

by Rob Newman (IRIS Data Management Center)

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