In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon explosion and fire caused the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history, which had significant impacts on the Gulf environment and people. As part of legal settlements with the companies involved, the federal government asked the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to establish a new research program focused on “human health and environmental protection in the Gulf of Mexico and on the United States’ outer continental shelf, including issues relating to offshore oil drilling and hydrocarbon production and transportation.”
What is the Program's mission?
Over its 30-year life, the Gulf Research Program will foster innovative, collaborative, and cross-cutting activities to enhance oil system safety, the environment, and human health in the Gulf of Mexico and other U.S. outer continental shelf areas. The Program will seek to improve understanding of the region’s interconnecting human and environmental systems and support application of these insights to increase the resilience of Gulf communities and ecosystems.
What will the Program do?
The Program will carry out studies, projects, and other activities using three approaches outlined in the legal settlements: research and development, education and training, and environmental monitoring. Program activities will take advantage of the nation’s scientific, engineering, and health communities. They are to be “determined solely by NAS” and “selected based on scientific merit and integrity, with emphasis on freedom of inquiry and independent nonpartisan advice and recommendations.”
How is the Program operating?
To guide the creation of the Gulf Research Program and propose an initial set of activities, the NAS appointed a group of 25 volunteers with extensive expertise and familiarity with the Gulf region. This Advisory Group met to discuss the charge established by the settlement agreements, held public meetings to gather input from individuals and organizations in the Gulf region, built relationships with other organizations, and identified needs that align with the Program’s assigned mission. Over the course of these activities, the Advisory Group developed a strategic vision to set the Program’s foundations. A document articulating this vision will be available in fall 2014.
How much money will the Program manage and over what time span?
The Program will have a total of $500 million ($350M from BP and $150M from Transocean) in a fixed term endowment. The funds accumulate over five years (2013-2018), and must be disbursed within 30 years. This time horizon presents an extraordinary opportunity to use science and technology to tackle large, complex issues at the regional scale.
What are the Program's goals?
Over its 30-year lifespan, the Program seeks to inspire changes that improve oil system safety, environment, and human health in the Gulf and other coastal regions. It will
Foster innovative improvements to prevention, safety technologies, safety culture, and environmental protection systems associated with offshore oil and gas development;
Improve understanding of the links between environmental conditions and human health to strengthen the resilience of Gulf communities and ecosystems to environmental stressors; and
Advance understanding of the Gulf of Mexico region as a dynamic system with complex, interconnecting human and environmental systems, functions, and processes to inform the protection and restoration of ecosystem services in the Gulf of Mexico.
What are the Program's key elements?
Some initial guiding principles for the Program include:
Emphasizing a future-oriented perspective,
Encouraging excellence in science,
Engaging stakeholders in the Gulf region and beyond,
Operating strategically, with a focus on achieving a lasting impact,
Catalyzing the development of potentially transformative science and technologies, and
Investing in building capacity to improve resilience in Gulf Coast communities and ecosystems.
What is the Program's geographic focus?
Program activities focus on the Gulf of Mexico and other U.S. coastal and outer continental shelf regions where human communities, ecosystems, and energy production co-exist. Work that transfers knowledge to or from other places in the United States or other nations is included in the mandate.
Who is involved?
Program planning is led by an appointed Advisory Group. Oversight is provided by the NAS, National Academy of Engineering (NAE), Institute of Medicine (IOM), and National Research Council (NRC), known collectively as “The National Academies.” We are a private, non-profit organization chartered by Congress in 1863 to provide independent, expert advice to the nation. Activities will involve scientists, engineers, health experts, educators, and others from throughout the United States, the Gulf region, and relevant other countries in a variety of ways.