The Partnership for Heliophysics and Space Environment Research (PHaSER) is a six-member partnership comprising The Catholic University of America (CUA), University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), University of Maryland College Park (UMCP), George Mason University (GMU), Howard University (HU), and the Universities Space Research Association (USRA). The goal of the partnership is to continue and expand the on-going support to Code 670 currently undertaken through two separate cooperative agreements: the Center for Excellence in the Physics of the Heliosphere and Sun (CEPHEUS), led by CUA with subawards to GMU; and the Goddard Planetary Heliophysics Institute (GPHI) led by UMBC in partnership with UMCP. Formed from six prominent local institutions, our partnership incorporates diversity and inclusion and is committed to diversity as an essential component of scientific success. Our approach cost-effectively integrates the HSD and PHaSER scientific enterprises, while effectively tracking, monitoring, and reporting effort and cost.

The PHaSER management approach is designed to build on the long-standing relationships between our member institutions and their key personnel and civil servants in HSD, provide new opportunities enabled by the expanded partnership, and ensure a seamless transition with minimal disturbance to current staff and HSD science projects. Our management structure is built to provide access to the advantages that the participating institutions offer, while presenting to NASA a single and streamlined interface. Below, we highlight the features of our approach and the benefits to HSD.

Overall Management Approach

The PHaSER management approach is based on a firm commitment to excellence in science through the application of rigorous and well-documented scientific methodology involving basic theory, comprehensive observations, thorough analysis of data and their uncertainties, and development of advanced instrumentation and numerical models. The PHaSER partnership brings many decades of experience supporting the scientific and technical priorities of HSD and GSFC. This experience has reinforced our belief that excellent science is best achieved with a management approach that values, nurtures, and grows its scientific personnel through diversity and inclusion, effective mentoring of students and young scientists, enabling collaborations and partnerships both nationally and internationally, and responsive and professional human resource management. 

The key features of the PHaSER management approach are summarized in exhibit below.

PHaSER Management Features
Feature Benefit to HSD
Robust team with seamless integration of institutional resources. Easy access to science resources.  Multiple opportunities for scientific collaborations.
Resources at GSFC’s doorstep. Maximum responsiveness.  Maximum collaboration.
Proven leadership with more than three decades experience with NASA and GSFC. In-depth understanding of GSFC requirements and operations ensures responsive support and effective communications. Anticipatory management avoids/minimizes problems.
Proven structure and process with proactive Management Council. The ability to identify, attract, and retain high-quality researchers.  Consistent, high-quality performance.
Active scientists integrated into the management and organizational structure. Maximizes understanding of the science and needs of the scientists.
Distributed administrative support staff. Easy access to administrative support, facilitating science, eliminating burden to staff and enhancing morale.
Thorough mentoring and guidance for proposal preparation. External funding increases management flexibility, enhances overall scientific breadth and productivity, and enables career growth opportunities for scientists.
All PHaSER scientists currently employed by member institutions. Excellent understanding of science requirements.  Lowest possible transition risk.  Minimal disruption to on-going programs.

Our partnership provides HSD with a unified management approach that supports our scientists and ensures immediate and efficient responses to queries, requests, and the needs of HSD scientists. We integrate active scientists at our partner universities into our management to keep the focus on scientific success and strengthen relationships with GSFC.

The PHaSER partnership is led by the Director, CUA PI Dr. Robert Robinson, and Deputy Director, Dr. Jeffrey Brosius, who will together be responsible for the overall management and operation of PHaSER. Dr. Robinson and Dr. Brosius are Director and Deputy Director, respectively, of the current CEPHEUS award. All cooperative agreement and GSFC provisions of safety, ethics, reporting, financial administration, and treatment of personnel flow down to each PHaSER institution; we distribute the requirements but centralize the responsibility for compliance with the Director and Deputy Director. The Deputy Director is fully qualified to assume the role of Directorif such need arises.

The PHaSER management structure is designed to be efficient and direct, with accountability and control through the central roles played by the CUA Director, Deputy Director, and Associate Directors from UMBC, UMCP, GMU, HU, and USRA. CUA will be the prime contractor and is responsible for sub-awards to the five other partners. The proposed organization is patterned after the current CRESST II management structure in the Astrophysics Science Division, which continues an approach that has proven effective at GSFC for almost 15 years. The following Exhibit shows the PHaSER management structure.


Each institution is responsible for its own staff and maintains scientific and technical communication with Code 670 sponsors as needed for individual tasks. The six partner institutions have representation on the Administrative Coordination Group (ACG) and the PHaSER Management Council (PMC). CUA is the primary point of contact with the GSFC Contracting Officer and the 670 Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative (COTR) with input from the PMC and support from the ACG.

The PHaSER partnership Director, CUA PI Dr. Robert Robinson, and its Deputy Director, Dr. Jeffrey Brosius, together are responsible for the overall management and operation of PHaSER. Dr. Robinson and Dr. Brosius are Director and Deputy Director, respectively, of the current CEPHEUS award. All cooperative agreement and GSFC provisions of safety, ethics, reporting, financial administration, and treatment of personnel flow down to each PHaSER institution; we distribute the requirements but centralize the responsibility for compliance with the Director and Deputy Director. In addition, the PHaSER partners mentor mid-career scientists who express a desire to assume more management and administrative responsibilities.

The Director and Deputy Director along with Associate Directors representing the five other PHaSER institutions comprise the PHaSER Management Council (PMC). The Associate Directors are PIs for their institutional sub-awards. They are Dr. Jan Merka for UMBC, Dr. Surja Sharma for UMCP, Dr. Jie Zhang for GMU, Dr. Marcus Alfred for HU, and Dr. Linda Parker for USRA.  The PMC meet monthly to discuss programmatic needs, coordinate resources, identify new sponsor requirements, and proactively address personnel matters. Ad hoc meetings called at any time in response to more immediate needs.

PHaSER administrative activities are overseen by an Administrative Coordination Group (ACG), which includes administrative personnel from each of the six partner institutions. The ACG will establish and monitor administrative functions to ensure accuracy, completeness, and consistency across partner institutions. The ACG advises the PMC on a regular basis to ensure effective administrative and logistical support for PHaSER scientists and for timely and accurate interactions with the GSFC contracting officer’s technical representative (COTR), sponsors, resource analysts, and procurement and security personnel. The ACG is led by an Administration and Financial Director, who represent the ACG at meetings of the PMC.

All PHaSER scientists will be employees of one of the partner institutions. The proposed fractional work allocations are based on the existing staffing levels in HSD, with an allowance for the growth in the number of scientists and students at HU. These are expected target values over the lifetime of the cooperative agreement, but small variations are allowed depending on the needs of HSD objectives. Short-term visiting scientists and sabbatical visitors are assigned to the partners to align with specific areas of expertise and to distribute the administrative load for more timely and effective handling of temporary staff. HU leads and coordinates the diversity and community outreach activities conducted by all PHaSER institutions. Each partner institution offers different advantages that we leverage to accommodate individual circumstances and preferences. At the outset of the award, by default, existing employees will remain with their current employer. Employee transfer requests will be considered on an individual basis. New hires are assigned to partner institutions according to a set of criteria to be developed by the PMC. UMBC employs one researcher from American University. This individual are offered the opportunity to remain with AU (supported through a subaward) or transfer to one of the PHaSER partners.  

Members of the PMC act as supervisors for the scientists employed by their respective institutions. They also direct and oversee the support of their institution’s administrative functions. All members of the PMC interact with HSD task sponsors, HSD Laboratory Chiefs and Division management. Members of the PMC bring several decades of experience in the management of scientific programs, including roles as PIs of two previous cooperative agreements in HSD, and as PIs of numerous grants funded by NASA, NSF, and other government agencies.