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
November 23, 2021 (5:00pm Pacific Time)


What's New This Year

SCEC Science Planning Committee, October 2021

The SCEC Science Plan (aka RFP) reflects the research priorities articulated in the SCEC5 proposal, and the project plan approved by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Geological Survey. 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, so we strongly encourage researchers to read the RFP carefully and in its entirety.

The science plan has updated priorities that reflect the fact that we are entering an extension of the SCEC5 research program to a 6th year during what we refer to as “The Bridge Period.” The bridge period will build on established strengths of the SCEC collaboration in coordinating fundamental PI-driven research and integrating the results into state-of-the-art community models, software and other products. This includes updated research topics that advance the understanding of earthquake processes. Given the limited time and resources available during the bridge period, these steps will be limited, judicious. During the Bridge we will recruit increased effort on community models that are less developed, initiate efforts to discern across community models possible underlying large-scale structures with limited manifestations in each data that are yet not well recognized. We will also be attentive to the long-term health and archival of all community models. The Bridge expands the use of “plasticity” to the more general term “damage,” and includes increased emphasis on fault-zone dilatation accompanying shear failure. Continuing trends are the increased use of machine learning techniques in both computational and observational studies across the full disciplinary spectrum of earthquake science, increased focus on near-fault studies for testing and developing further models of earthquake processes, and updates to SCEC research computing, cyberinfrastructure, and information technology. During the Bridge period we will continue to focus efforts on studying the rich and complex data sets generated by the Ridgecrest earthquake sequence.

  • 2022 is an extended year of the SCEC5 research program. Our overarching mission remains focused on reaching SCEC5 goals. Proposals for new projects need to make a compelling case for how they will contribute to these goals within a one-two year time frame.

    The continuing COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the ability of some SCEC investigators to carry out work as initially planned. We recognize this adversity and encourage investigators to document such hardship, where appropriate, in their report on progress in the previous year. We remain in contact with NSF, USGS, and other sponsors about flexibility in spending plans. Given the uncertain future course of the pandemic, PIs may want to consider contingencies in their proposed work plan for the coming year. We will communicate with SCEC investigators if there are any future changes in guidance.

    The performance period for SCEC-funded projects will have an effective February 1, 2022 start date and January 31, 2023 end date. Workshops funded in response to this Science Plan must be scheduled between February 1, 2022 and December 31, 2022.

  • 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.

  • Again this year, investigators that anticipate extensive use of research computing and/or cyberinfrastructure support through SCEC should consult with the Computational Science group leaders, Ricardo Taborda ( and Ahmed Elbanna ( as described below in section 4.4.2. Prior to proposal submission, investigators should contact Tran Huynh ( to ascertain the relevant SCEC capabilities that may contribute to the proposed project, as well as guidance on the 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 has been 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.

  • Investigators proposing projects that include undergraduate student support are encouraged to explore funding for the student(s) directly through SCEC’s undergraduate internship programs. Through the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE, an in-person summer internship) or the Supported Opportunities for Undergraduate and Researchers to Collaborate on Earthquake Science (SOURCES, a remotely-mentored, year-round internship), students are funded to work alongside SCEC scientists on a variety of research projects relevant to SCEC priorities. See details in Section 3.2.3.B.

  • The SCEC Transitions Program welcomes proposals for workshops, seminars, short courses, or other types of training experiences for early-career researchers (ECRs) and students that (i) expand their competency in using earthquake research tools and techniques and (ii) increase awareness of geoscience career pathways and advancement opportunities. Outside of this proposal process, the Transitions Program also offers Research Travel Awards to help students and ECRs attend conferences. See details in Section 7.1.2.

  • 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.

Investigators planning to submit a proposal should also note that:

  • We take pride in fostering a diverse and inclusive SCEC community, and therefore expect all participants to abide by the SCEC Activities Code of Conduct, as approved by the SCEC Board of Directors.

  • 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).

  • Funding for travel to participate in the 2022 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. The requested international funding support should not exceed $1,500 per person in the proposed budget.