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]


The annual budget cycle begins with a SCEC Leadership Meeting in early May, where the Board of Directors, Science Planning Committee (SPC), Executive Committee of the Center, and agency representatives discuss SCEC research priorities. Based on these discussions, the SPC drafts an annual SCEC Science Plan, which is presented to the SCEC community at the Annual Meeting in early September. The SPC uses the feedback received at the meeting to finalize the Annual Science Plan, and a project solicitation released in October. SCEC participants submit proposals in response to this solicitation in November. All proposals are independently reviewed by the Director, the Co-Director, Vice-Chair of the SPC, and the leaders of at least three relevant science working groups. Reviews are assigned to avoid conflicts of interest. 

The SPC meets in January to review all proposals and construct an Annual Collaboration Plan. The plan’s objective is a coherent science program, consistent with SCEC's basic mission, institutional composition, and budget that achieves the Center's short-term objectives and long-term goals, as expressed in the Annual Science Plan. The PC Chair submits the recommended Annual Collaboration Plan to the Board of Directors for approval. The annual budget approved by the Board and the Center Director is submitted to the sponsoring agencies for final approval and funding. Upon approval by the agencies, notifications are sent out to the investigators.
To construct the Annual Collaboration Plan, proposals submitted in response to the annual solicitation are evaluated based on: (a) scientific merit of the proposed research; (b) competence, diversity, career level, and performance of the investigators; (c) priority of the proposed project for short-term SCEC objectives; (d) promise of the proposed project for contributing to long-term SCEC goals; (e) commitment of the principal investigator and institution to the SCEC mission; (f) value of the proposed research relative to its cost; and (g) the need to achieve a balanced budget while maintaining a reasonable level of scientific continuity given funding limitations. With respect to criterion (b), improving the diversity of the SCEC community and supporting early-career scientists is a major goal of the Center. It is important to note that a proposal that receives a low rating or no funding does not necessarily imply it is scientifically inferior. Rather, these proposals may be downgraded because they may not meet other criteria noted above.
It should be also noted that SCEC maintains close alignment with the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program through three mechanisms: (1) reporting and accountability required by USGS funding of SCEC, (2) liaison memberships on the Board of Directors by the three USGS offices now enrolled as SCEC core institutions, and (3) a Joint SCEC/USGS Planning Committee (JPC). The JPC augments the SCEC Science Planning Committee with a group of program leaders designated by the USGS who participate in the construction of the Annual Collaboration Plan. If requested, the SPC chair will continue to sit on the Southern California Proposal Review Panel for the USGS External Research Program.