SCEC Science Plan


The Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC) was founded as a Science & Technology Center on February 1, 1991, with joint funding by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS). SCEC graduated from the STC Program in 2002 and has been funded as a stand-alone center under cooperative agreements with both agencies in four consecutive phases: SCEC2, 1 Feb 2002 to 31 Jan 2007; SCEC3, 1 Feb 2007 to 31 Jan 2012; SCEC4, 1 Feb 2012 to 31 Jan 2017; and SCEC5, 1 May 2017 to 30 Apr 2022. NSF has extended SCEC5 for a 6th year and the USGS has invited a separate bridge proposal to span the anticipated 2 year time period for the start of a potential new earthquake center SCEC coordinates fundamental research on earthquake processes using Southern California as its main natural laboratory.

SCEC involves over 1,000 scientists at more than 90 institutions in its research program. SCEC’s research program is investigator-driven and open to anyone who is willing to submit a qualified project plan for peer review. SCEC funding supports research and education in seismology, tectonic geodesy, earthquake geology, computational science, and many interdisciplinary studies in earthquake science.

The core funding is allocated through an annual planning process that involves input from the entire SCEC community, as well as counsel from an external Advisory Council and the sponsoring agencies. A SCEC Science Plan is released each fall, which solicits proposals from individuals and groups to participate in the SCEC research program for the following year. Every year, more than 150-175 proposals are submitted to SCEC. These projects involve over 200 distinct investigators and many more graduate students and other early career scientists. Every proposal is reviewed and about 80 subawards are executed on an annual basis (each project typically ranging from $10,000 to $35,000). About two-thirds of the SCEC science budget goes to students and early-career scientists engaged in research.

Questions not answered in the Science Plan? Email proposals[at]
Questions about the online SCEC Proposal System? Email web[at]


Every investigator listed on the proposal must have a registered account on, with current contact information and profile information updated.

Proposal Due Date
December 1, 2022 (5:00pm Pacific Time)


What's New This Year

SCEC Science Planning Committee, October 2022

The SCEC Science Plan (aka RFP) reflects the research priorities first articulated in the SCEC5 proposal and approved by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Geological Survey. The 2023 Science Plan, with its updated priorities, is an extension of the SCEC5 research program to a 7th year (February 1, 2023 - January 31, 2024). It builds on SCEC’s strengths in coordinating fundamental PI-driven research and integrating results into state-of-the-art community models, software and other products that advance our understanding of earthquake processes. The SCEC Science Plan detailed in this document is provisional pending final budget authorization by sponsoring agencies. The Southern California Earthquake Center is committed to providing a safe, productive, and welcoming environment for all participants. 
Substantial changes have been made to the RFP since last year. We strongly encourage researchers to read this document carefully and in its entirety.
In March of 2022, SCEC submitted a proposal to NSF to transition to a “Statewide California Earthquake Center.” As of October 2022, that proposal is still pending. For the period covered by this Science Plan, we will not have the benefit of NSF funding to support the core research program. The reduced funding means we will remain attentive to the long-term health and sustainability of all community models. The 2023 Science Plan continues the trend emphasizing (1) artificial intelligence, machine learning and other emerging techniques in computational and observational studies across the full disciplinary spectrum of earthquake science; (2) near-fault studies for testing and developing further models of earthquake processes; and (3) enhancements to SCEC research computing, cyberinfrastructure, and information technology. 
  • 2023 is an extended year of the SCEC5 research program. Our overarching mission remains focused on reaching SCEC5 goals. Proposals for new projects must make a compelling case for how they will contribute to these goals within the 1-year period.
  • The continuing COVID pandemic impacted the ability of some SCEC investigators to complete work as initially planned. We recognize this adversity and encourage investigators to document such hardship, where appropriate, in their prior results. PIs may want to also consider contingencies in their proposed work plan should the pandemic continue and a project period extension is not possible. We will communicate with SCEC investigators of any future changes in guidance.
  • Funded SCEC projects will have an effective performance period from February 1, 2023 to January 31, 2024. Funded workshops must be scheduled between February 1, 2023 and December 31, 2023.
  • Proposal guidelines outlined in Section 3.3.4 will be strictly enforced. Proposals that do not comply with the guidelines will be returned without review.
  • The Ridgecrest earthquake sequence provides important new data and research opportunities across the SCEC collaboration, including, but not limited to: constraints on the stress field, earthquake interaction, ground motion prediction, and the community rheology model.
  • The San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), a new SCEC core institution, provides the SCEC community with access to approximately 1 million core hours of computing time each year on SDSC systems. SCEC researchers may request access to SDSC computer resources in their proposals. Investigators that anticipate use of research computing and/or cyberinfrastructure support through SCEC should follow the process described in section 4.4.2. Prior to proposal submission, investigators should contact Philip Maechling ( to ascertain the relevant SCEC capabilities and SDSC computing resources available to SCEC researchers that may contribute to the proposed project, as well as guidance on the software developer level of effort needed. Estimates of developer time requested should be entered in the online budget form as noted in the “budget justification” section below.
  • There is a renewed call to develop methodologies to validate ground motion simulations based on dynamic rupture simulations, for systematic assessment of aleatory variability and epistemic uncertainty in simulated ground motions, and for the development of methodologies to validate and calibrate estimates of permanent displacements.
  • The “Earthquake Gates” focus area was started in the first year of SCEC5. This initiative is designed to foster multidisciplinary studies of the factors that lead earthquakes to start or stop (as at a gate). To organize this initiative the SCEC community held an incubator workshop in March 2017 and solicited proposals to establish Earthquake Gate Areas. The Cajon Pass Region was selected as the first and only Earthquake Gate of SCEC5. We do not plan to initialize any additional Earthquake Gate Areas in SCEC5. Refer to section 5.5 SAFS for more information on the Earthquake Gates Initiative and the Cajon Pass Earthquake Gate Integrated Science Plan.
  • The geochronology infrastructure supports Accelerator Mass Spectrometer analysis of 14C, 10Be, 26Al, and 36Cl through collaboration with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the University of California, Irvine (14C only). Luminescence dating (OSL, pIR-IRSL) will be supported through regular proposal budgets, through an arrangement with a luminescence laboratory (see Earthquake Geology section for suggestions).
  • See Tectonic Geodesy section for new opportunities related to off-fault deformation, behavior of the shallow crust, and upcoming EMIT and NISAR missions.
  • Investigators proposing projects that include undergraduate student support are encouraged to explore funding for the student(s) with SCEC’s Assistant Director for Experiential Learning and Career Advancement, Gabriela Noriega ( 
  • We will consider workshops that focus more effort on training the next generation of users in the use of SCEC software, SCEC datasets, other data access and visualization tools, and software best practices. The workshop budget may include allocation for a researcher/instructor/programmer team to develop and lead the course and to facilitate online instruction, up to a maximum total budget of $25,000-$30,000.
  • We will also consider field trips paired with synthesis workshops. The workshop budget should include field trip expenses, as well as expenses for the development of “virtual field trip guide” to allow for enhanced accessibility for workshop participants and a synthesis report or publication. The virtual field trip guides will be made available and hosted online as educational resources for the broader community through SCEC’s Communication, Education, and Outreach program.
  • SCEC takes pride in fostering a diverse and inclusive SCEC community, and therefore expects all participants to abide by the SCEC Activities Code of Conduct, as approved by the SCEC Board of Directors.