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). Since 2002, SCEC has been sustained as a stand-alone center under cooperative agreements with both agencies in three consecutive, five-year phases (SCEC2-SCEC4). The Center has been extended for another 5-year period, effective 1 Feb 2017 to 31 Jan 2022 (SCEC5). SCEC coordinates fundamental research on earthquake processes using Southern California as its main natural laboratory. Currently, over 1000 earthquake professionals participate in SCEC projects. This research program is investigator-driven and supports core research and education in seismology, tectonic geodesy, earthquake geology, and computational science. The SCEC community advances earthquake system science by gathering information from seismic and geodetic sensors, geologic field observations, and laboratory experiments; synthesizing knowledge of earthquake phenomena through system-level, physics-based modeling; and communicating understanding of seismic hazards to reduce earthquake risk and promote community resilience.

The annual SCEC Science Plan (aka RFP) solicits proposals from individuals and groups to participate in the SCEC research program on an annual basis. Typical grants awarded under the SCEC Science Plan fall in the range of $10,000 to $35,000. This is not intended to limit SCEC to a fixed award amount, nor to a specified number of awards, but rather to calibrate expectations for proposals submitted to SCEC. Field research investigations outside southern California are generally not supported.

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
Tuesday, November 15, 2016 (5:00pm Pacific Time)


What's New This Year

The SCEC Science Plan reflects research priorities articulated in the SCEC5 proposal. The SCEC Science Plan as detailed in this document is provisional pending a formal award decision on the SCEC5 proposal by the National Science Foundation and U.S. Geological Survey, and approval of a final budget authorization associated with the first year of SCEC5. Substantial changes have been made to the RFP, so we strongly encourage researchers to read carefully the RFP in its entirety.

  • The Science Planning Committee (PC) is reconfigured for SCEC5. Some working groups remain, some have evolved to reflect a changed emphasis, and others have been discontinued. The four disciplinary committees (Seismology, Geodesy, Geology, and Computational Science), and three of the interdisciplinary focus groups (FARM, SDOT, and EERI) are the same. GMP and SoSAFE have changed slightly to the more general Ground Motions (GM) and San Andreas Fault System (SAFS), respectively. The USR focus group will broaden to include all community models under the new CXM group. Finally, Special Projects will no longer be represented individually on the PC, but rather in aggregate by the Executive Director for Special Projects (Christine Goulet) and the SCEC IT Architect (Phil Maechling).

  • All Technical Activity Groups (TAGs) will sunset at the end of SCEC4. Established TAGs, and proposed new TAGs, will have to be re-initiated in SCEC5 through submission of a successful proposal to the Planning Committee.

  • A new focus area, called “Earthquake Gates” will be started in the first year of SCEC5. This initiative is designed to foster multidisciplinary studies of the factors that permit earthquakes to start or stop (as at a gate). To organize this initiative within the SCEC community, an incubator workshop will be held in the early spring of Year 1. See the SAFS section for more details.

  • The San Gorgonio Pass and Ventura Special Fault Study Areas are wrapping up at the end of SCEC4. This does not mean that we will no longer fund proposals that concern research in these areas.

  • Investigators on proposals that anticipate use of SCEC computational resources and/or help from SCEC software developers must consult with SCEC IT leadership for budget time support estimates and coordination planning.

  • Investigators interested in undergraduate summer interns should include an "intern project" description in their proposal. The undergraduate intern will be recruited by the SCEC CEO Program staff. Selected intern projects will be awarded as supplemental funds on the proposal award. Funds will be disbursed and managed at USC to use for a summer stipend and travel support to the SCEC annual meeting for the selected undergraduate student. The number of intern projects awarded each year will depend on available funding in the SCEC annual budget and the available applicant interest pool.

  • 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 arrangement with a luminescence laboratory (see Earthquake Geology section for suggestions). This change reflects the close collaboration required for luminescence dating.

  • The CCSP has an increased emphasis on geological studies that will inform seismic hazard in central California, particularly for those faults west of the San Andreas and within the southern Sierra Nevada.

  • SCEC no longer supports proposals solely for annual meeting participation. Funding for travel to participate in the SCEC Annual Meeting will be considered only in the context of a research proposal in response to the current Science Plan. International travel funding for a co-investigator to participate in the SCEC Annual Meeting will be considered, provided the proposal clearly states (a) how the investigators are critical to the project and (b) a plan for how the international participant’s institution will cost-share the anticipated travel expenses.