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About SZ4D

A community-driven initiative for a long-term, interdisciplinary research program to understand the limits and possibilities of predicting subduction zone geohazards

SZ4D or Subduction Zones in four Dimensions, is a community-driven initiative for a long-term, interdisciplinary research program to understand the limits and possibilities of predicting subduction zone geohazards. The group works together to create the multifaceted infrastructure and other resources needed to enable new discoveries. SZ4D brings together a diverse community of US-based and international scientists from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds who study earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and surface processes. 

Read our FAQs below to further explore on SZ4D structure, core missions, and how to get involved.

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  • How do I get involved with SZ4D?
    There are many opportunities to get involved in the SZ4D community of scientists. Participate in workshops, townhalls, and webinars. Subscribe to the listserv and e-newsletter to keep up-to-date on events. Take a look at the implementation plan and consider how to align your science with the common goals. Contact the Collective Impact Committee to broaden your impact. If you would like to get involved in guiding SZ4D, you can volunteer for a committee. SZ4D is planned by committees organized around scientific subjects and operational needs. The call for volunteers for committees usually opens in the spring. Look for the call in the e-newsletter and fill out the volunteer form. You can also volunteer someone else! The Committee on Committees uses the responses to this form to design a balanced slate of committees each year. The factors they consider include scientific expertise, career stage, and demographics. Don’t worry if you don’t get selected the first time you volunteer. There is an opportunity every year! Learn more about volunteer opportunities
  • Who is funding SZ4D?
    SZ4D planning and community building efforts have been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation from the EAR and OCE divisions as well as the GEO directorate and the Office of International Science and Engineering. SZ4D does not currently have funding to directly support scientific research. Learn more
  • What is collective impact?
    SZ4D seeks to be a community-driven scientific initiative that strives to fill in the major gaps in our understanding of geohazards by coordinating fundamental research and bringing together a range of geologic sub-disciplines and scientists, some of which have been historically disparate. A Collective Impact framework, in opposition to the Isolated Impact model, allows transformative change that builds equity and the capacity necessary to create a more cooperative and sustainable approach to conducting the science described in the SZ4D Implementation Plan. Learn more about the Collective Impact model
  • Is there a mechanism in place to generate SZ4D proposals?
    There is currently no dedicated program that exclusively and specifically funds research projects associated with SZ4D. NSF welcomes proposals for SZ4D-related science to the core programs following the normal deadlines. Referring to the SZ4D Science Implementation Plan in your proposal will help make the Broader Impacts of your work clear. The more clearly we all articulate how our efforts contribute to the SZ4D vision, the better we can position NSF and its partner agencies to develop a more coordinated funding plan. Learn more
  • How do I get a Letter of Collaboration from SZ4D for my proposal?
    Per NSF Guidelines, SZ4D may provide a Letter of Collaboration only for proposals that require a commitment of action or resources by SZ4D. Requests for Letters of Collaboration should be jointly addressed to the Chair of the Steering Committee and the closest disciplinary contact in the SZ4D Governance structure. Appropriate disciplinary contacts might include co-chairs of any of the Committees that are closely aligned with the effort. For full consideration, requests should be received at least 3 weeks prior to required submission date. All requests for Letters of Collaboration will be discussed and voted on by the Steering Committee. Criteria for approval include alignment with the SZ4D mission and appropriate use of SZ4D resources. Approved Letters of Collaboration will be signed by the Chair of the Steering Committee and/or the disciplinary contact on behalf of SZ4D.
  • How do I coordinate my proposal with SZ4D?
    The Collective Impact Committee (CIC) is designed to help coordinate SZ4D science and outreach efforts in the current absence of a dedicated funding program. PIs are encouraged to contact the CIC to discuss opportunities for coordination. As PIs consider proposals to build components of SZ4D, the CIC has developed an initial set of questions to help PIs design proposals that coordinate with SZ4D. When it comes to designing efforts to accomplish broader impacts that are aligned with SZ4D, the BECG chapter of the Implementation Plan is currently the best starting point. If your proposal involves a workshop that might require SZ4D staff assistance, please contact us so that we can coordinate an appropriate budget to help you.
  • How long will it be until SZ4D is fully built?
    SZ4D is currently in the development phase, as defined by the NSF Research Infrastructure Guide. We anticipate entering the design phase over the next few years and then fully building the infrastructure and accompanying science over the following decade.
  • What is the purpose of the Catalyst Center?
    The expansive vision of SZ4D needs cost estimates, time phasing, and project planning in order to prepare for full submission to NSF and any partnering agencies. The purpose of the Catalyst Center is to help accomplish this development quickly. The major components of the SZ4D catalyst effort are: A staffed center to organize the development work and Build Equity and Capacity with Geoscience (BECG) following a Collective Impact model. Technical project management to realistically evaluate costs and trade-offs of instrumentation options; and Preparatory work for the geological, modeling and laboratory facilities, including workshops and modest engineering design work. All of these specific activities have been strategically selected because they directly affect high-priority elements of the implementation plan. They have identifiable, tractable development needs that should be addressed prior to launch of a full SZ4D program. Learn more about the Catalyst Proposal
  • What is SZ4D doing to address US subduction zone hazards?
    The Washington and Oregon margins have the largest associated risk of any domestic subduction zone and thus deserves special attention. The societal implications associated with a major volcanic eruption or the ground shaking and tsunami associated with the eventual magnitude 9 earthquake weigh heavily on the region. However, the slow convergence rate and low rates of events present challenges to capturing the relevant data. The Aleutian and Alaska subduction zone has frequent and diverse eruptions and frequent earthquakes, however the glacial history makes aspects of the landscape system difficult to study. The hostile climate also presents formidable logistical challenges. The ideal study strategy is thus to strategically collect data on a faster, accessible subduction zone that can provide the information on human timescales that will ultimately be important to interpreting and predicting the future behavior of the United States’ most prominent subduction zone. This comparative subductology approach demands a coordinated plan to use modeling, strategically selected domestic data collection, and fundamental understanding to connect the data from the more rapid analog to the domestic hazards. A current effort of SZ4D is to craft the domestic instrumentation and activity priority targets that will maximize the impact of the comparative approach.
  • Why does SZ4D have a strong focus on the Chilean subduction zone?
    The 4500 km of geologically active continental subduction zone encompassed in the single country of Chile make it globally unique. Factors such as slab dip, convergence rate, and climate vary systematically along the subduction zone, which allows many comparative experiments to be carried out. The Chilean subduction zone experienced the largest instrumentally recorded earthquake in 1960 and many magnitude 8 or larger earthquakes since then. There are 96 volcanoes with eruptions in the Holocene with 33 discrete eruptions in the twenty-first century including several on the Chile-Argentina and Chile-Bolivia borders. The Chilean subduction zone possesses nearly all of the high-priority scientific attributes identified by the SZ4D working groups. Opportunities presented by the Chilean subduction zone have produced efforts in the region spanning the shoreline for decades. Moreover, there is a robust community of Chilean and Argentinian geohazard scientists - in both academic and observatory settings - working with international partners to develop instrumentation allowing collection of high quality data in targeted areas. The majority of SZ4D’s new long-term instrumentation efforts will occur on the Chilean margin. The high probability of capturing events maximizes the possibility of gaining timely scientific insight that can help understand hazards at the domestic subduction zone with the highest risk: Cascadia. The ideal study strategy is to combine a study of Cascadia with a faster subducting analog that can provide the information on human timescales that will ultimately be important to interpreting and predicting the future behavior of the United States’ most prominent subduction zone. Learn more about SZ4D regions of special interest and the processes implemented by SZ4D to identify regions of special interest
  • How does SZ4D relate to other community efforts?
    The geoscience community is active in approaching the science and mitigation of geohazards on many fronts. SZ4D works to complement and leverage efforts from other facilities, science centers, international collaborations, and public policy groups. SZ4D is distinguished by specifically concentrating on applying a comparative strategy to fundamental geohazard science with an emphasis on collecting and integrating new observations across subduction systems. Our most important coordination mechanism is SZNet, which is currently proposed under the NSF AccelNet program. SZNet is designed to provide an umbrella organization that can help align efforts in the US, Chile and around the world. Learn more about SZNet
  • What is going on right now at SZ4D?
    Take a look at our Upcoming Events and News pages!
  • What is SZ4Grads?
    SZ4Grads is a collaborative and intercultural network of graduate students and recent graduates investigating subduction zones. SZ4Grads works with the BECG committee to help bring early career scientists into the SZ4D community and make sure their priorities are well represented throughout the initiative. All graduate students currently studying subduction zones are invited to join SZ4Grads. Learn more about SZ4Grads activities and how to get involved
  • How many people are involved in SZ4D?
    SZ4D working groups, integrative groups, and committees currently include 135 US and international committee members across disciplines. SZ4D serves a growing community of 3000 scientists from around the globe. Learn more about SZ4D current committee membership, governance, and how to get involved
  • Can I donate to SZ4D?
    Absolutely. If you are interested in helping support SZ4D please visit the donation page or contact our office.
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