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The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions 2 Organization and Administration Implementation of the Oil Spill Recovery Institute’s (OSRI) mission and accomplishment of the objectives of the authorizing legislation depend on having an effective organizational structure, and in particular having unbiased administrative procedures for the award of grants and contracts. In recognition of the finite nature of OSRI resources, it’s important that OSRI interact effectively with other research programs in the region to avoid duplication of efforts and provide synergy in the accomplishment of common objectives. OSRI products must be effectively communicated to users and stakeholders. To this end, OSRI must be an objective and fair partner to a variety of people. To understand the process that has been developed to manage and distribute OSRI funding, the various steps in the process and the role of oversight and advisory bodies must first be understood. The authorizing legislation sets forth an organizational structure that includes a director, an Advisory Board, and a Scientific and Technical Committee (STC). The Advisory Board determines the policies for the conduct and support of research, projects, and studies through contracts and grants “awarded on a nationally competitive basis.” The OSRI Advisory Board directed that awards be competed on a national level, meaning that they be advertised nationally and competed by the largest possible pool of potential researchers, not just researchers from the immediate area. In general, national competitions are ways of encouraging submission of high-quality proposals. With guidance from its advisors, OSRI has developed a fairly typical process to gather and review proposals and make awards. Key elements
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The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions of this process include the development of Broad Area Announcements (BAAs), development of annual work plans, and peer review of proposals. The grant process is described in more detail in Chapter 3. This chapter examines the oversight structure more broadly, looking at roles, fairness, and effectiveness and whether adequate checks and balances are in place to ensure the integrity of the process and produce an atmosphere where partnerships and collaborations can flourish. THE ADVISORY BOARD The main oversight committee of OSRI is its Advisory Board, which has a key role in setting policy. The Advisory Board is composed of 16 members as defined in the authorizing legislation (see Table 2-1 or Appendix E). The Advisory Board is chaired by the representative of the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Board members include state and federal employees. Several board members are nominated by interested parties through the governor of the State of Alaska. At large representatives are considered and named by the Advisory Board itself. In addition, there are two nonvoting representatives from the Institute for Marine Sciences and the Prince William Sound Science Center (the director of PWSSC, who also serves as director of OSRI, serves as a nonvoting representative). One important role of the Advisory Board, carried out by a subcommittee in consultation with staff, is preparation of annual work plans. These are important documents because they articulate the goals for the program. In examining the roles and responsibilities of the various oversight groups, we conveyed many questions to OSRI to be sure we had a clear understanding of how they operate. The most relevant of these discussions are included here as a summary of how OSRI operates. • Do members of the Advisory Board serve on other bodies or committees of the OSRI or the PWSSC? OSRI has an Executive Committee, Finance Committee, and Annual Work Plan Committee (see Appendix E). Members are elected to the Executive Committee, per the bylaws, and appointed to the other committees, generally on an annual basis. One voting member of the OSRI Advisory Board, Gail Evanoff, also currently serves on the PWSSC Board of Directors (see Appendix E). She was appointed to the OSRI Advisory Board as one of the Alaska Native representatives by Governor Tony Knowles. There is one nonvoting member of the PWSSC Board of Directors on the OSRI Advisory Board, per OPA 90 legislation. Otherwise, there is no overlap between the OSRI and PWSSC boards.
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The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions • How is the working plan committee selected? The work plan committee is selected by the Advisory Board, usually at its winter meeting with a report/recommendation being presented in the late summer/early fall meeting for the next fiscal year’s plan. Appointment is for one year. Declarations of conflict of interest are done by all Advisory Board members when they first join the board (see Appendix B, OSRI bylaws, for the form that all board members complete). Specific conflicts that may arise during annual work plan discussions are declared at that time. SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL COMMITTEE To provide more detailed scientific input, the Advisory Board empanels a Scientific and Technical Committee (STC) composed of specialists in matters related to oil spill containment and cleanup technologies, Arctic and subarctic marine ecology, and the living resources and socioeconomics of Prince William Sound and its adjacent waters. This committee is to be composed of scientists from the University of Alaska, the Institute of Marine Sciences (IMS), the Prince William Sound Science Center, and elsewhere in the academic community (see Table 2-1 or Appendix E). The STC provides advice to the Advisory Board as requested and it makes recommendations regarding the conduct and support of research and technology projects and studies. The process for the selection of STC members, the terms of service, and the schedule for rotation is unspecified. The committee’s questions and OSRI staff responses about the STC included the following: • Are members of the Scientific and Technical Committee a subset of the Advisory Board? With the exception of the STC chair, who is the academic appointee to an ex officio Advisory Board position, all STC members are outside experts from academia, management, industry, and the public, per OPA 90 requirements (the legislation states these specialists must come from “the University of Alaska, the Institute of Marine Science, the Prince William Sound Science Center, and elsewhere in the academic community.” • Do STC members serve on other committees or bodies of OSRI or the PWSSC? No STC members serve on other OSRI or PWSSC committees or bodies, other than the STC chair, who is a nonvoting member (currently John Goering, who is the IMS/UAF representative on the Advisory Board).
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The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions TABLE 2-1 Membership on Oil Spill Recovery Institute and Prince William Sound Science Center Advisory Groups as of Spring 2002 OSRI Advisory Board NAMES (as of June 2002) Board Member Executive Committee Finance Committee FY03 Work Plan Committee Virginia Adams ✓ John Allen Ed Backus Chris Blackburn John Calder ✓ ✓a Capt. Jack Davin ✓ Douglas Eggers Gail Evanoff ✓ Mark Fink ✓ ✓ Carol Fries ✓ ✓ John Goering ✓ John Harville Raymond Jakubczak Meera Kohler R.J. Kopchak ✓ ✓ ✓a Marilyn Leland ✓ ✓ ✓ Calvin Lensink Doug Lentsch ✓ ✓
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The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions PWSSC Scientific and Technical Committee Board of Directors Executive Committee Board Member Emeritus Members ✓ ✓ ✓b ✓ ✓ ✓a ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓
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The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions OSRI Advisory Board NAMES (as of June 2002) Board Member Executive Committee Finance Committee FY03 Work Plan Committee Simon Lisiecki Ole Mathisen Trevor McCabe Charles Meacham Alan J. Mearns Doug Mutter ✓ ✓b Stu Nozette Charles Parker Walter Parker ✓ Leslie Pearson ✓ ✓ ✓ Stanley (Jeep) Rice Thomas C. Royer Steven Taylor Gary Thomas ✓c ✓c Ed Thompson ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ Mead Treadwell ✓c Glenn Ujioka ✓
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The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions PWSSC Scientific and Technical Committee Board of Directors Executive Committee Board Member Emeritus Members ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓b ✓a ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓c ✓ ✓
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The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions OSRI Advisory Board NAMES (as of June 2002) Board Member Executive Committee Finance Committee FY03 Work Plan Committee Nolan Watson David Witherell Edward Zeine achair. b vice chair. c nonvoting member. • Are there term limits for STC membership and who decides this? Duration has been until they resign or another recommendation is made to the Advisory Board for membership on the STC. Appointment is officially by the OSRI director with concurrence/approval by the Advisory Board as a whole. We have not asked STC members to fill out a conflict of interest form, but the first paragraph of all proposal review forms requests such conflicts to be declared and for the reviewer to return the proposal unreviewed if there is a conflict. • Can you provide a list of the OSRI management team and the PWSSC management team? OPA 90 established PWSSC as the administrative institution for OSRI. All administrative positions for OSRI are PWSSC employees. Owing to the small size of the staff and budget and the need for several specialties to operate OSRI and PWSSC programs, the administrative positions for OSRI and PWSSC are shared: G.L. Thomas, director/president, Nancy Bird, administrator/vice president, Penny Oswalt, finance director, and Jessica Miner, bookkeeper. All administrative positions are full-time but the salaries are shared 2/3 to 1/3 between OSRI and the PWSSC’s general fund, with one exception, director/president G.L. Thomas, who is also supported on non-OSRI research grants and contracts (the OSRI administrative staff is not allowed to apply for OSRI grants). G.L. Thomas’s position has broken down to about 1/3 PWSSC administration, 1/3
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The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions PWSSC Scientific and Technical Committee Board of Directors Executive Committee Board Member Emeritus Members ✓ ✓ ✓ NOTES: This table shows membership in the full suite of oversight bodies, and uses names current as of spring 2002 as a way to compare membership of the groups to determine if there is an over-reliance on the same advisors. There appears to be good diversity of participation although the OSRI director has many roles. Appendix E provides membership lists for each body separately. OSRI administration, and 1/3 non-OSRI research grants over the history of the institute. Part-time administrative positions for network administration, administrative assistant, librarian and receptionist are arranged on need, budget, and availability basis. DEVELOPMENT OF BROAD AREA ANNOUNCEMENTS Solicitation of proposals for OSRI projects is done mostly through the issuance of BAAs. An important step in the procurement process is the development and writing of these BAAs, because they are the instructions by which potential proposers understand the intended scope and focus of desired research and write their applications for funds. BAAs are written by OSRI staff. Chapter 3 looks in detail at grant award policies and suggests improvements. This section answers some key questions that arose as the committee sought to understand the administration hierarchy. The following questions/issues about BAAs were identified by the committee. Responses from OSRI staff follow the questions. • Are BAAs approved/reviewed by others, such as the Advisory Board or the STC?
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The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions Before February 2002, BAAs were written by staff and reviewed/approved by the OSRI director. After February 2002, the STC must review/approve BAAs before release. • Are authors and/or reviewers of BAAs eligible to submit proposals in response to those BAAs? No. • Why are BAAs used when Requests for Proposals (RFPs) might be more appropriate, and is the use of BAAs consistent; when are open BAAs chosen and why? OSRI has used both BAAs and RFPs in the grant process. Generally, when a specific task/function/effort is identified, an RFP is used. BAAs are used for projects where a broader scope of proposals is desired. Open BAAs are used in the education program where OSRI seeks to identify candidates for fellowships/ internships and to fund science workshops as part of our continuing planning program. REQUIREMENTS FOR PROPOSALS Beyond the requirements for being responsive to the substance of the BAA or RFP, additional requirements are sometimes stipulated by OSRI. There are two things that may discourage potential applicants: a cap on allowable overhead and a call for matching funds that many people interpret as a requirement. Specifically, OSRI policy limits overhead to 20 percent and it requests a two-for-one match, although the match may be inkind. The committee asked OSRI staff the following questions about proposal requirements: • Who decided and why was it decided to cap overhead at 20 percent? A 20 percent overhead cap for the administration of OSRI was established by OPA 90. The OSRI Advisory Board adopted this as a guideline also to be used for indirect costs for outside proposals after lengthy debate (see the minutes of August 12, 1998 - pages 6 and 9). However, the board allows the director discretion to approve higher than 20 percent indirect costs based on the project’s merit. As a practice, the director approves requests from academic institutions for higher rates when the institution has a government-audited indirect cost rate. • Is any preference given to proposals that have a Prince William Sound Science Center (PWSSC) co-principal investigator (PI)? No. The Advisory Board specifically reviewed such clauses, which are common at other funding programs in Alaska, such as the UAF-CMI program (fed-
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The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions eral funds), the UAF-PCC program (industry funds), and others, and they decided that this should not be done. In fact, the Advisory Board adopted a policy with the opposite intent: when proposals are equally ranked, a proposal with a PWSSC PI is funded secondarily to a proposal without a PWSSC PI. Any PWSSC proposal that is funded by OSRI must be clearly superior to proposals from non-PWSSC PIs The 20 percent cap on overhead, even though it can be waived by action of the OSRI Advisory Board or director, is a real limitation to the program. By current standards, this is a low allowable rate and seeing this on the website or in a BAA or RFP would discourage scientists from many institutions from applying for grants. Thus, the cap is acting to reduce the diversity of proposals received, and the lack of wide competition is a detriment to the program. The objective of seeking matching funds, to leverage OSRI’s impact, is sound and can give the program broader impact, but care should be taken to communicate the fact that this is a goal but not a requirement. UNSOLICITED PROPOSALS Although OSRI staff discourages unsolicited proposals, they are accepted if received. If an unsolicited proposal is judged to warrant consideration, it is translated into a BAA and advertised. The original proposer receives no favorable treatment in the process. The committee asked OSRI staff the following questions/issues about unsolicited proposals: • Who decided the policy for unsolicited proposals? The OSRI Advisory Board decided policy for handling unsolicited proposals. • Who decides if an unsolicited proposal is translated into a BAA? The Advisory Board decides. The staff discourages unsolicited proposals. We encourage public input at Advisory Board meetings for project ideas to be considered annually by the Work Plan Committee. NATIONAL COMPETITIVENESS The legislative mandate is for nationally competitive award of OSRI resources. The following question was asked of OSRI staff to clarify advertising procedures. • What procedures are used to ensure nationally competitive awards? Funding opportunities are advertised through a variety of media to attract proposals from a broad pool of applicants. The Commerce Business Daily and
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The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions the Internet are the primary methods for advertising solicitations. Newspapers, direct mailings, e-mail lists, and postings of opportunity at professional meetings and e-mail networks, such as LABNET, are used where deemed appropriate by OSRI staff. CONFLICT OF INTEREST AND FAIRNESS During this review, the committee’s members and some of those who responded to our call for input raised questions about how conflict of interest and fairness issues were managed in the OSRI award process. For example, some members of the relevant science communities perceive that personnel involved in the promulgation of BAAs, the peer review process, and the selection process can also have proposals under consideration by the same process. However, the OSRI Grant Policy Manual has sufficient rules to prohibit this problem, leaving the committee to wonder whether this perception is outdated or misguided. There have been problems with unnecessarily limited circulation of BAAs and inappropriately short deadlines (see Chapter 3), which some might consider a fairness issue but which the committee sees as administrative challenges that can be corrected. In addition, as mentioned earlier, restrictions on overhead charges and the perception that matching funds are required, rather than just encouraged, also acts to limit respondents. Confusion over whether those serving on the OSRI Advisory Board and the Scientific and Technical Committee can receive OSRI funds also causes negative perceptions about the fairness of the process. The OSRI authorizing legislation was quite prescriptive in setting up some of the organization’s rules and procedures and creates a situation that may look flawed unless everyone involved is extremely careful to avoid both real and perceived conflicts of interest. For example, if it had not been required by legislation, it is unlikely that a grant-awarding organization like OSRI would be administered jointly with a grant-receiving organization like the Prince William Sound Science Center. The director of OSRI is in a particularly sensitive position in terms of being open to perceptions of unfairness in the process or conflict of interest. Although the OSRI director is precluded from being a principal investigator on OSRI-supported projects, the perception problem arises because the OSRI director is also the director of the PWSSC and serves as a principle investigator or co-PI on PWSSC projects. The National Science Foundation (NSF), the Office of Naval Research (ONR), and others have considered ways to allow their program managers to remain active scientists but with clear boundaries that protect their programs from conflict of interest issues (i.e., the Independent Research
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The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions Program at NSF and the Research Opportunities for Program Officers program at ONR), and OSRI might develop ideas from those mechanisms. Procedures also dictate that whoever is the director of PWSSC will be designated as a representative on several boards and committees. Selection of the membership on various committees and the OSRI Advisory Board appear to be strongly influenced by the director’s recommendations, which again contributes to questions regarding fairness since these bodies are intended to provide independent oversight. The director, as would be expected, materially participates in and approves the content of BAAs and allocation of awards after review and will always need to take extreme care in representing each organization and managing conflicting duties. By design the same person leads both a center that conducts research and a research grant-awarding program. The committee can only caution that whoever serves in the role must be aware of the image issue and be proactive in combating problems by always following fair and open procedures and ensuring that all actions are transparent to other organizations and colleagues throughout the science community. As illustrated in Table 2-1, there is not significant overlap in use of people in different advisory roles, except for the expected overlap of OSRI Advisory Board members serving on its Executive Committee, Finance Committee, and Work Plan Committee and except for the many roles assigned to the OSRI director. Good variety among the advisors is important because using the same people tends to limit creativity in any program. Another constraint on creativity is lack of organized rotation of participants, to allow room for new ideas and perspectives. As possible, given the legislative requirements for some of the roles, scientists with broad perspectives should be sought (not just scientists with specialized sub-Arctic science experience).
Representative terms from entire chapter: