In 2013 the U.S. Department of Justice asked the NAS to accept funds from the settlement of the federal criminal complaints against BP Exploration and Production Inc. and Transocean Deepwater Inc. as a result of the 2010 DWH explosion and fire and to establish a new program focused on oil system safety, human health, and environmental resources in the Gulf of Mexico and other regions on the U.S. outer continental shelf.
This opportunity was not undertaken lightly. The DWH explosion, fire, and oil spill had significant impacts on the Gulf region and the Nation, and even now, 5 years after the disaster, there remains much to learn about long-term impacts and how to prevent such harm in the future. The Gulf Research Program is an opportunity to enhance the Nation’s capabilities to prevent, mitigate, and respond to future oil spills. It is also an opportunity to advance scientific understanding of complex systems such as the Gulf of Mexico and to think broadly about the connections among energy production, the environment, and the people who depend on both. Given its $500M endowment and 30-year duration, the Gulf Research Program presents an extraordinary opportunity to tackle large, complex issues at a regional scale and over the long term.
The Gulf Research Program joins a number of other important science-based organizations and programs that are bringing an influx of activity to the Gulf of Mexico region. We will continue to work closely with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the RESTORE Council, the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, and the many other federal and state agencies and foundations operating in the region. Our missions, funding amounts and sources, and durations may differ, but our commitment to bringing some benefit out of the DWH tragedy is shared. The Program is not focused solely on the Gulf of Mexico, but aspires to benefit all U.S. offshore oil and gas producing regions and the Nation as we balance the benefits and risks of energy production.
This first annual report summarizes Program planning, activities, and accomplishments from June 2013 to the end of 2014. In addition to conducting extensive outreach and articulating the Program’s founding mission and goals, the Program planned and launched three inaugural 2015 funding opportunities: exploratory grants, fellowships, and data synthesis grants. By September 2015, we will have announced our first award recipients, and the first groups of Early-Career Research and Science Policy Fellows will have begun work. We’ve set a strong foundation for the challenges that come next: ramping up to a more significant size and moving toward more ambitious undertakings.
The Program has benefited from the extraordinary generosity of many people across the Gulf region and around the Nation. Our sincere thanks to the many people who have contributed to this work, including the Program’s initial Advisory Group, the current members of the Program’s Advisory Board, and the many people who shared their expertise and ideas with us during the Program’s planning phase.