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The National Science Foundation seeks the services of a qualified organization to manage and operate an Ocean Bottom Seismometer Instrument Center established and sponsored by Marine Geology and Geophysics research programs within NSF’s Division of Ocean Sciences.

Research activities requiring the use of the existing pool of instruments supported by NSF are expected to continue well beyond the period of performance for the existing Ocean Bottom Seismometer Instrument Pool Management Office award, scheduled to expire in early 2018. The award resulting from this solicitation will be administered as a Cooperative Agreement with a single Lead Institution that will perform the OBSIC activities described in the full solicitation here.

Proposal Due: October 25, 2017

Anticipated Type of Award: Cooperative Agreement
Estimated Number of Awards: 1

A principal role of OBSIC is to serve as the central entity responsible for providing appropriate ocean bottom seismometers for high quality data acquisition and coordinating their deployment in support of scientific research programs. It is anticipated that a base amount of approximately $1.8M per year will be provided for OBSIC management and operation.

Supplemental funding increments for field support of instrument deployment and recovery on specific projects will be executed through the award resulting from this solicitation. The OBSIC Program budget, number of awards and average award size/duration are subject to demand for Ocean Bottom Seismometer (OBS) use and the availability of funds.

The successful proposal will be awarded as a Cooperative Agreement. NSF anticipates that the initial award commitment will be for five years, with continuation for a maximum of an additional five years contingent on the availability of funds and the successful outcome of a comprehensive external review of Awardee performance in the third year of the initial period (see Section VII.B, "Special Award Conditions"). Budget amounts given in this program solicitation are for planning purposes only - actual annual funding increments will be determined on the basis of Annual Program Plans submitted by the Awardee and approved by NSF, subject to the availability of appropriated funds and contingent upon successful performance of the Awardee.

Should a new Awardee be selected to replace the current OBSIP Management Office Awardee, NSF will consider funding allowable transition costs for a period of up to six months. Relevant transition activities may include interviewing and hiring personnel, assigning subcontracts, website development, and transferring data and property. During this transition period, the new Awardee will have appropriate access to incumbent personnel and facilities.

Anticipated Funding Amount: $9,000,000

Base funding up to $9M total or $1.8M annually, including management, operations and data quality assurance and control. The program budget for field experiments will supplement the base funding depending on the demand for Ocean Bottom Seismometer (OBS) use in terms of number of awards, average award size/duration and availability of funds.


Active and passive source seismic tools are critical for addressing fundamental questions about the structure and dynamics of the Earth's crust and interior. With 70% of the Earth's surface covered by oceans, seismic instruments that can be deployed on the seafloor provide key coverage and the ability to answer questions about the nature of the ocean basins that cannot be addressed with other tools.

The Ocean Bottom Seismograph Instrument Pool (OBSIP) was established in 1999 to enable research in a range of programs across the Ocean and Earth Sciences. The OBSIP was originally funded by separate Cooperative Agreements with three principal Institutional Instrument Contributors equipped to provide seismic instruments to NSF-sponsored research programs. Later, the OBSIP Management Office was established in 2012 to provide more centralized organization of the instrument pool and enhanced coordination with NSF and the user community. This support has ensured maintenance of the necessary technical capabilities, and has provided access to Ocean Bottom Seismic instruments and data for a broad user community, but has also resulted in proliferation of instrument designs, operational approaches, field support needs, and management practices that is not sustainable.

In order to meet the continuing demand for OBSs, the Division of Ocean Sciences seeks the services of a qualified organization, through a Cooperative Agreement, to provide Management and Operation of a new consolidated Ocean Bottom Seismometer Instrument Center (OBSIC) to support research and education in the Ocean and Earth sciences. OBSIC will serve as the primary source of OBS instruments and field support for NSF-funded research programs. With the new management model, NSF strives to encourage greater operational efficiency and service while maintaining the technical foundation necessary for future innovation and ensuring that OBS capabilities support, sustain, and advance frontier science within available resources.

An internal Resource Library that includes information relevant to OBSIC Management and Operation, as identified in Section V herein, will be made available to interested proposers.


The Ocean Bottom Seismometer Instrument Center (OBSIC) is envisioned as a single organization that will enable seamless access to high quality OBS-related instrumentation, data collection, and data delivery capabilities to a broad scientific community. OBSIC will serve as the primary source of OBS instruments and field support for NSF-funded research programs.

As the selected managing organization, the Awardee will work closely with NSF and the U.S. oceanographic community to ensure that, subject to budgetary constraints, OBSIC will provide centralized support for separately funded research programs that require OBS instrumentation. The Awardee will maintain an appropriate balance of engineering, technical and management personnel to provide support to potential users who may be unfamiliar with the instruments or the complexities of OBS experiment design, field operation, and data quality assessment. OBSIC will provide mechanisms for processing instrument requests and obtaining timely feedback from the user community concerning instrument capabilities, performance, and data quality concerns. The Awardee will establish and maintain a website to inform the community about OBS planning, services and products. Also, the Awardee will ensure that OBS data acquired through the use of OBSIC will be in formats usable by researchers and of sufficient quality to be entered into an appropriate long-term data repository, such as the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology Data Management Center (IRIS-DMC), and made publicly available in a timely fashion. In addition to the customary NSF oversight of Awardee performance, an external Oversight Committee will provide expert advice and represent the interests of the broader science community.

The expected annual budget of up to $1.8M to support OBSIC comprises only the base costs (including data quality assessment/control but not long-term data storage), with no funding for support of individual experiments or any development efforts. Supplemental funding for individual experiments will be provided to the OBSIC in accordance with research proposal success, and funding for development efforts may be sought through other NSF programs. Should support for instrument recapitalization be sought during the award period of performance, the Awardee will demonstrate that new equipment is consistent with the goals of greater standardization of instrument types and support requirements as a cost saving priority. NSF will retain ownership of any such instruments, and they will be subject to the terms and conditions of federally-owned property (see NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide section IX.D.4).

Awardee Responsibilities:

In general, the Awardee will manage and coordinate OBS-related activities that most effectively respond to the needs of the geosciences community. OBSIC will have responsibility for performing activities needed to furnish and support ocean bottom seismometers for field experiments that have been peer-reviewed and approved by the NSF. The OBS inventory available to OBSIC will include, at a minimum, the 60 broadband instruments acquired with NSF American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) support ("Cascadia OBSs", including shallow-water trawl resistant designs; more information available here) as well as 14 broadband instruments transferred to OBSIP from the Transportable Array. The Awardee will closely coordinate with the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory (UNOLS) to assure efficient scheduling and deployment of OBS equipment and support personnel. The Awardee will have responsibility for quality assurance and quality control of data and meta data acquired using OBSIC assets, (which will include close coordination with Principal Investigators requesting the data for research purposes), prior to OBSIC transmittal to a long-term data archive.

OBSIC instruments assigned to funded field experiments may be obtained from existing inventories or from proposals submitted to NSF programs. OBSIC will be expected to support requests by Principal Investigators for information on the costs to acquire OBS instrumentation for inclusion in research proposals. The OBSIC award will be supplemented to cover costs associated with awarded proposals that required OBSIC tools and field services.

Operating expenses for OBSIC will be negotiated annually. Base funding under the Cooperative Agreement will be used for instrument maintenance and repair, but not for significant new technical developments. Major instrument design efforts should be proposed separately to an appropriate program, such as the Ocean Technology and Interdisciplinary Coordination (OTIC) Program in the NSF Division of Ocean Sciences or the NSF Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) Program.

OBSIC will also encourage, to the extent practicable, greater standardization of instruments and equipment, instrument operation and maintenance practices, data processing, and the associated workflows. Proposals submitted pursuant to this solicitation must be based on a detailed, integrated, and well-defined Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and an associated WBS Dictionary. Each section of the Project Description and each element of the proposed budget must be tied clearly and directly to the proposal WBS. The WBS shall include but not be limited to the following areas of responsibility and associated tasks:

OBSIC Management and Operations

For the organizational structure and staff, the Awardee will provide expertise and leadership in planning, coordinating, overseeing, reviewing, and reporting of OBS management, operations, and data delivery. This will include:

  • Managing activities, personnel, equipment, and facilities required to furnish, operate, maintain and refurbish instrumentation, equipment, and infrastructure for optimal performance.
  • Monitoring instrument status and assuring readiness of the OBS instrumentation for deployment and data delivery.
  • Obtaining SubAwardee, subject to NSF's prior approval, and/or subcontractor assistance on an as needed basis.
  • Following well-defined workflows for engineering, data collection, and data delivery, including processes for integrating new technology into the instrument pool.
  • Tracking OBSIC assets by providing a detailed running inventory of available OBS instruments including type, location, operational capability and special features of interest to the user community.
  • Planning and coordinating training and staffing necessary for instrument maintenance and field support. (Use of the UNOLS Marine Technician Pool may offer improved operational efficiency and cost effectiveness).
  • Preparing Annual Program Plans that describe operational plans and associated budgets.
  • Managing and controlling program budgets and expenditures.
  • Developing and implementing metrics to assess and improve OBSIC performance.
  • Maintaining liaison with the Oversight Committee and the science community.
  • Reporting in accordance with program requirements to include Quarterly Activity and Annual progress reporting to NSF.

Community Interface

The Ocean Bottom Seismometer Instrument Center (OBSIC) will serve as the interface between NSF/OCE and the OBS user community. Tasks under this area of responsibility will include:

  • Preparing informational budgets for individual research proposals to NSF that will require use of OBSIC resources.
  • Providing technical support to Users of OBSIC to inform researchers regarding the appropriate tools to match science questions to be addressed.
  • Providing mechanisms for timely responses to information related to instrument needs of the user community and associated feedback regarding OBS instrument performance.
  • Maintaining a website that provides easily available information that informs the science community and other users about OBS instrument features, data products and availability, deployment schedules and OBSIC services.
  • Engaging the User community and Oversight Committee in identifying current and emerging priorities for OBS-related science, and ensuring that the instrument pool serves those needs to the extent practicable.
  • Working with Users to ensure that all data issues are identified and resolved and that updated datasets are uploaded to the appropriate long-term data archive in a timely manner.
  • Engaging in relevant programs to inform the Ocean and Earth science community about capabilities and accomplishments of OBSIC.

Deployment/Recovery Cruise Interface

The Awardee will be proactively involved in developing ship schedules for OBS deployment/recovery cruises through attendance at UNOLS Scheduling Committee meetings. Once schedules are established, any revisions that become apparent to the Awardee will be promptly communicated to the UNOLS Office. Related tasks under this area of responsibility will include:

  • Planning and coordinating instrument, manpower, and scheduling requirements for deploying and recovering ocean bottom seismometers in cooperation with NSF/UNOLS or other ship operators.
  • Attending UNOLS Scheduling Committee meetings, fully prepared to represent scheduling requirements of Principal Investigators who will be conducting OBS-related field experiments. (This will include estimated ship days for completion of the work as well as days for contingency).
  • Executing and maintaining any environmental compliance requirements and permitting associated with ocean bottom seismometer deployments in cooperation with the UNOLS Scheduling Committee.
  • Collaborating and coordinating activities with the UNOLS Scheduling Committee to minimize deployment and recovery times and/or duplication of efforts.

Data Management Interface

In compliance with the NSF/OCE data policy, data acquisition enabled by OBSIC will be submitted to a long-term data archive within two years of collection. Data submission to the long-term archive will be the responsibility of the OBSIC, following coordination with the associated researchers. Related tasks in this area of responsibility include:

  • Ensuring delivery of high quality OBS data and meta data to PIs for research projects and for subsequent archiving through adherence to a well-defined data quality plan and robust service performance monitoring.
  • Establishing processes and procedures to ensure that high quality data acquired from OBS deployments are entered into a long-term archive in a timely fashion.
  • Ensuring prompt updating of datasets in the long-term archive if errors are discovered.
  • Reporting on status of all data submission and data quality issues in reports submitted to NSF and to the Oversight Committee.

For the full solicitation, click here.