In 2013 the U.S. Department of Justice asked the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to accept funds from the settlement of the federal criminal complaints against BP Exploration & Production Inc. and Transocean Deepwater Inc. as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and fire, and use the funds to establish a new program focused on oil system safety, environmental resources, and human health in the Gulf of Mexico and other regions on the U.S. outer continental shelf. The program is to be entirely independent, with the companies having no role in directing use of the funds. The funds are being received between 2013 and 2018 and are to be expended over 30 years.
This opportunity to direct some of the settlement funds toward scientific activities that benefit the Gulf region and the Nation is not taken lightly. The program can help advance scientific understanding of this important region and enhance the Nation’s capabilities to prevent, plan for, mitigate, and respond to future disasters. It is also an opportunity to think broadly about the connections among energy production, the environment, and health. Thus, in summer 2013, the NAS and its affiliated organizations—the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), the Institute of Medicine (IOM), and the National Research Council (NRC)—together embarked on a planning process to shape the new program.
An Advisory Group (see Appendix A) with extensive expertise was appointed to guide the creation of the Gulf Research Program. It was asked to establish the foundation of a Program that, over time, is expected to make an enduring contribution to the vitality of the Gulf region. The Advisory Group set out to determine how the Program could build relationships at the state and federal levels; translate the broad mandates of the settlement agreements into a vision of the Program’s mission, goals, and objectives; and propose an initial set of activities.
We want to thank the members of the Advisory Group for their dedicated service—they have been deeply engaged and insightful. The chair, Dr. Barbara Schaal, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Washington University, St. Louis, merits special recognition for leading this energetic group of 25 volunteers. We also want to thank the nearly 300 people who offered their advice and
perspectives during the planning process. We look forward to a continuing conversation—with government agencies; nonprofit associations; scientists, engineers, and physicians; industries; and citizens—to ensure that the Program fulfills its intended purpose.
This document presents a vision to guide the new Gulf Research Program, but much work remains to be done to turn this foundation into an effective suite of work. In fall 2014, oversight for the Gulf Research Program will transition to a newly appointed Advisory Board charged to implement the Program’s vision, and we look forward to the new board’s contributions.
We recognize that the Gulf Research Program will evolve over its 30-year duration, but we believe that this document provides a strong foundation. The NAS, NAE, IOM, and NRC will work together to ensure the Program’s success.
RALPH J. CICERONE, President, National Academy of Sciences
C. D. MOTE, Jr., President, National Academy of Engineering
VICTOR J. DZAU, President, Institute of Medicine