Thread: April 2021 Merger Update

Started: 2021-04-20 06:46:36
Last activity: 2021-04-20 06:46:36
Ronni Grapenthin
2021-04-20 06:46:36
Dear Community:

We know you have been eager to hear about the latest developments in moving
towards the creation of the EarthScope Consortium (ESCO). The merger
Steering Committee (Bob Woodward, Becks Bendick, Rick Aster, Ronni
Grapenthin, Jerry Carter, Glen Mattioli, Tonie Van Dam, and Brandon
Schmandt) has been actively working on key aspects of realizing our new
community EarthScope Consortium to deliver on its mission:

“The EarthScope Consortium is a university consortium dedicated to
transforming global geophysical research and education”

and vision:

“An engaged society, resilient to geohazards, informed by geophysical
discovery and global collaboration”.

Since the approval of the merger terms by
the UNAVCO and IRIS memberships, the Steering Committee has developed
timelines and to-do lists, and has been analyzing the similarities and
differences between current IRIS and UNAVCO organizations and activities at
very detailed levels to effect an efficient and effective merger of our two
consortia in accordance with the EarthScope Consortium, Inc. bylaws
This process has helped us all to build a stronger understanding of the
challenges and opportunities ahead, and to map out paths to creating a
dynamic new organization to further advance geophysics.

As reported in our last message, the Merger Steering Committee has charged
and convened four Planning Teams, to scope and recommend on Governance,
Finance, Human Resources, and Programmatic Activities (the structure for
managing our main science support mission). These Teams contain members of
both IRIS and UNAVCO with specific expertise in each area and are jointly
led by pairs of individuals from each organization. The Governance Team
leaders are Rick Aster and Ronni Grapenthin, the IRIS and UNAVCO Board
chairs, respectively. The Finance Team leaders are Stephen Ettinger and
Candy Shin. The HR Team leaders are Marlo Swanson and Annette Tangye. The
Programmatic Team leaders are Becks Bendick and Bob Woodward. These teams
have been working on the necessary details of standing up our new
consortium to both lead our proposal efforts this year and to prepare the
smooth transition from IRIS/UNAVCO to ESCO by October 1, 2023. Final
recommendations from these teams to the Steering Committee are expected
within a few weeks.

A critical piece of our work over the last months has been the
establishment of principles to guide the more specific design of ESCO and
to deeply embed a forward looking culture to deliver on the mission and
vision. While these initial, foundational principles will not change, we
plan to release an amended list that incorporates additional principles in
the near future.


The Steering Committee prefers that core EarthScope activities be performed
by EarthScope employees. Subawards will be restricted to cases with
specialized, unique, or high-risk capabilities.

A focus on in-house labor will allow the EarthScope Consortium to realize
benefits of flexibility, reduced overhead, matrix management, and
efficiencies of an agile, cross-trained workforce, making it rapidly
adaptable to the community’s changing needs. Integrated labor will help
the EarthScope Consortium to make award dollars go as far as possible in
delivering services to the research and academic community. This change is
also highly responsive to the charge from the NSF to design the future
geophysical facility from first principles.


The Steering Committee prefers that the EarthScope Consortium operate with
direct staffing models (although subcontracting is not ruled out) that
allow flexibility and remote work to the extent possible and optimal.
Staffing models will recognize the unique capabilities of current staff to
the extent possible.

COVID-19 operations have demonstrated that the EarthScope Consortium
mission can be accomplished with flexible staffing, and there are cost and
operational efficiencies realized by having a smaller physical footprint
and allowing diverse employees to work in ways that are best for them. The
future hiring plan of the EarthScope Consortium will be implemented in a
way that retains the key capabilities and honors the expertise and
commitment of the current staff of the merging organizations.


The Steering Committee prefers that the EarthScope Consortium operate with
a small number of primary facilities. We envision largely office space
plus an instrumentation facility.

Their location will be determined by optimizing key strategic values such
as accessibility, partnership leverage, cost effectiveness, and
attractiveness for staff. Site selection will be made through a
transparent process as facility needs evolve through the proposal and award

As you can see, we are taking the unambiguous charge from the NSF very
seriously that we design a new organization that can take geophysics
support into new, interdisciplinary, innovative, and agile directions. At
the same time, we are absolutely committed to retaining and integrating the
unique talents and deep domain expertise of our current consortia into
ESCO. We hope that you are all as excited as we are to step into this new

Please feel free to reach out to either or both of us throughout the
upcoming proposal and merger process with your questions or ideas. A public
opportunity to hear more and ask questions around the merger process will
be the Seismological Society of America Annual Meeting Townhall on April
21, 1:30-2:00 pm PDT.

All the best,

Ronni and Rick

Ronni Grapenthin (he / him / his)
Associate Professor of Geodesy
Geophysical Institute
University of Alaska Fairbanks*
2156 Koyukuk Drive
Fairbanks, AK-99775

office: Elvey 413B
phone: +1 907 474 7286

**Our campus is located on T Yeddha', ancestral land of
the Dena people of the lower Tanana River.*

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