Payload Protocol


The Center for Geotechnical Modeling (CGM) supports the idea of payload and mini-payload tests where independent secondary experiments can be completed relatively simply and efficiently within the context of a larger primary experiment or research project. The CGM will facilitate payload projects by supporting collaboration and interaction between the multiple parties involved, as described herein. If you have an idea for a payload, we would like to discuss it with you. Please contact the CGM via email using

Payload experiments are generally independent experiments performed within the bounds of a primary experiment. The confined space, high g-field, and dense complexity of typical experiments on the 9-m centrifuge means that accommodation of payload tests generally increases the complexity of the primary experiment and puts additional burden on the primary project's PI and researchers. For this reason, the successful execution of a payload project will require active cooperation between the lead experiment team and the payload experiment team, along with support from the sponsors of both projects, the NHERI Network Coordination Office (NCO), and the CGM. This expectation of cooperation will likely be outlined in a multi-participant research agreement.

Mini-payload tests are small-scope secondary tests that do not significantly burden the primary project. Mini payload tests are often performed on a different research team’s model after that team has completed their testing and is willing to accept the related disruption/testing/use of their model. Past mini payload tests have included: trial use of new earthquake ground motion command files; trial use of a new pile driver; trial testing of the prototyped piles/probes; and trial testing of a rocking structure on a shallow foundation. Other mini payload tests have included comparison of new sensors added to the model with existing sensors placed by the primary team, where the primary project would also benefit from the comparison. These mini payload tests do not involve significant costs, have limited scope, and generally do not require significant advance planning or scheduling when they involve teams that are working in parallel at the facility. These examples have not required formal research agreements. The CGM facilitates these mini payload tests when possible by recognizing and promoting the opportunities for research teams to assist each other.

The CGM maintains a list of all funded projects and PIs at the CGM website. A list of current NSF-sponsored projects using the CGM and the upcoming test schedule at the CGM are listed online by the NCO. Primary project PIs share the details of their experiment with DesignSafe-CI for posting on the NHERI website so that the community is informed of opportunities for payload projects.

The CGM and the primary project PI can review payload proposals only for technical feasibility and financial impact on the existing work.

  1. Researchers interested in performing a payload project should identify a technically feasible host project for their experiment and submit a payload proposal to the CGM for consideration.
  2. The CGM will review the payload proposal for technical feasibility, obvious impacts on the primary experiment, and estimated impacts to schedule. If it rates the proposal as feasible, the CGM will transmit the original payload proposal and its assessment to the primary PI for their review. The CGM will provide written explanations to the proposer if the CGM declines the payload proposal directly.
  3. Primary PIs funded by NSF must review and consider proposals for payload projects. The primary PI will assess if the payload project impedes or detracts from the quality of the primary experiment or if it can be reasonably accommodated. Should they choose to decline the proposal, the Primary PIs must provide written explanations to the CGM. The CGM will convey this review to the proposal team.
  4. The primary PI and payload project PI are responsible for coordinating their activities once a payload project has been accepted.
  5. A multi-participant research agreement is recommended to outline the contractual and financial obligations of the primary team, payload team, the CGM, the project sponsors, and others as indicated.
  6. The CGM will provide support to both research teams toward achieving integration.