GRANTS: INVESTING IN SCIENCE TO ADVANCE UNDERSTANDING, IMPROVE PRACTICE, AND SERVE COMMUNITY NEEDS
In 2016, the GRP significantly ramped up its grant offerings with five competitions for five different grant types:
- Exploratory Grants
- Synthesis Grants
- Capacity Building Grants
- Research-Practice Grants
- Research and Development Grants
Two of these competitions—Exploratory Grants and Synthesis Grants—completed their peer-review and project-selection processes in 2016, resulting in awards to 12 projects totaling $5.1 million. The other three competitions—Capacity Building Grants, Research-Practice Grants, and Research and Development Grants—will complete their processes and make awards totaling $23.2 million in 2017.
In addition, in 2016 the GRP had 21 existing projects in progress from Exploratory Grant and Synthesis Grant funding awards made in 2015.
See pp. 11–12 to learn more about some featured grant projects.
Exploratory Grants seek to catalyze innovative thinking by providing seed money to advance research in its early conceptual phase, accelerate progress from concept to testing, and foster the development of novel approaches.
Awards for the second Exploratory Grant competition were made in 2016 to projects addressing one of two themes:
- Improving the use of scenario planning to advance safety culture and minimize risk in offshore oil and gas operations.
- Improving coastal community planning and response to environmental change in regions with offshore oil and gas operations.
Nine projects—with personnel from 7 institutions in the Gulf states and 14 institutions elsewhere in the country—received a total of $2,965,471. Projects involve activities focused on developing citizen science efforts, mitigation strategies, adaptation planning, and decision support tools.
Of 12 additional projects that began in 2015 from the first Exploratory Grant competition, 9 were completed in 2016 and 3 will be completed in 2017.
The Summary of Grantees (p. 27) provides additional details about these projects.
Synthesis Grants seek to bring together different disciplines and sectors to collaboratively use existing data derived from varied sources or collected for different purposes to generate novel insights or increase the applicability of scientific research.
Awards for the second Synthesis Grant competition were made in 2016 to projects addressing one of two themes:
- Applying scientific synthesis to connect environmental, social, and/or health data to advance understanding of the short- and long-term impacts of offshore oil and gas operations on coastal communities.
- Advancing study design, tools, models, and technologies to assess human exposure to environmental contaminants, including acute or chronic exposures related to oil spills and other sudden and large-scale environmental disasters.
Three projects—with personnel from 2 institutions in the Gulf states and 7 institutions elsewhere in the country—received a total of $2.12 million. Projects include efforts focused on examining the drivers of community-level oil spill responses and on developing tools to help identify community vulnerabilities and plan for mitigation in response to impacts resulting from offshore oil activities.
Of 9 additional projects that began in 2015 from the first Synthesis Grant competition, 8 are scheduled to be completed in 2017 and 1 will be completed in 2018.
The Summary of Grantees (p. 27) provides additional details about these projects.
Capacity Building Grants
Capacity Building Grants were a new GRP grant type in 2016. These grants seek to improve the capacity of community or regionally focused organizations by supporting the development, expansion, testing, or evaluation of strategies to advance understanding of how science can be used to serve communities in addressing needs and challenges.
One Capacity Building Grant competition opened in 2016. The opportunity was for projects aimed at strengthening the capacity of community networks to use data, research findings, and scientific approaches to improve the environments or health and well-being of communities in coastal regions along the U.S. outer continental shelf. Awards totaling $3.2 million will be made to projects in 2017.
Research-Practice Grants were a new GRP grant type in 2016. These grants seek to support projects that bring together the perspectives of researchers and practitioners to collaborate on conducting and developing scientifically sound research and practice efforts aimed at improving information, testing strategies, and providing evidence that can be readily used by relevant stakeholders to guide plans and actions.
One Research-Practice Grant competition, jointly developed and funded in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, opened in 2016. The opportunity was for projects aimed at enhancing the science and practice of coastal community resilience in the Gulf of Mexico region
through explorations of the interrelated health, social, environmental, and economic impacts of disasters and other environmental stressors in order to inform strategies for dealing with these impacts. Awards totaling $10 million will be made to projects in 2017.
Research and Development Grants
Research and Development Grants were a new GRP grant type in 2016. These grants seek to support research projects that aim to address scientific or technological gaps by advancing the fundamental science or providing the basis to develop relevant new technologies, processes, or procedures.
One Research and Development Grant competition opened in 2016. The opportunity was for research projects aimed at advancing science or technologies that can improve understanding and help reduce the systemic risks associated with offshore oil and gas drilling, production, and decommissioning activities in the Gulf of Mexico or other U.S. outer continental shelf regions. Awards totaling $10 million will be made to projects in 2017.
2016 Grant and Fellowship Recipients
FELLOWSHIPS: INVESTING IN SCIENTIFIC LEADERSHIP AND CAPACITY BUILDING
The GRP currently runs two fellowship programs—Early-Career Research Fellowships and Science Policy Fellowships—to support the development of future generations of scientists, engineers, and health professionals prepared to work at the intersections of oil system safety, human health and well-being, and environmental resources.
2016 marked the second year of these programs. Awards totaling $1.28 million provided support for 10 Early-Career Research Fellows and 10 Science Policy Fellows in 2016, an increase of 25 percent and 150 percent, respectively, from the number of fellows funded in 2015.
Early-Career Research Fellowships
Early-Career Research Fellowships are for assistant professors (or equivalent) at colleges, universities, and research institutions to recognize professionals at the critical pre-tenure phase of their careers for exceptional leadership, past performance, and potential for future contributions to improving oil system safety, human health and well-being, or environmental protection.
In 2015, 10 individuals working on Gulf-relevant topics—7 from Gulf institutions and 3 located elsewhere—received awards totaling $760,000 as the GRP’s second class of Early-Career Research Fellows. These fellows have wide-ranging expertise that spans chemistry, ecology, engineering, geology, geography, oceanography, and sociology. The 2 years of funding and mentorship provided by the fellowship program allows researchers to pilot new and potentially risky research, broaden the disciplinary scope of their work, support trainees, and travel to build networks with new collaborators.
See pp. 14–16 to learn more about the fellows and their work.
Science Policy Fellowships
Science Policy Fellows spend 1 year on the staff of a federal or a state environmental, natural resources, oil and gas, or public health agency in the Gulf of Mexico region. These fellowships provide an immersive policy experience for early-career scientists through which they gain first-hand knowledge of the regulatory and policy-making organizations that work to address environmental challenges particular to coastal areas. Additional funds (up to $5,000 per fellow) are available for professional development activities and travel.
In 2015, 10 individuals received awards totaling $520,000 as the GRP’s second class of Science Policy Fellows and were placed in the following host offices in the Gulf region:
- Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
- Florida Department of Environmental Protection
- Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (RESTORE Council)
- Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority
- Texas Parks & Wildlife Department
- U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Gulf of Mexico Program
- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
- U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Resources and Ecosystem Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act (RESTORE Act) Science Program
See pp. 17–19 to learn more about the fellows and their experiences.
The GRP also supports projects that take advantage of the consensus-building and convening power of the National Academies. In 2016, the GRP provided funding that initiated four National Academies consensus studies, one GRP-led and three led by other National Academies divisions, and two National Academies workshops, both led by other National Academies divisions, on topics relevant to the Gulf region. The knowledge resulting from these activities will benefit the efforts of the GRP and inform future funding opportunities.
Advancing Understanding of Gulf of Mexico Loop Current Dynamics: This GRP-led National Academies consensus study is an effort to improve forecasts of the Loop Current System in the Gulf of Mexico and enhance understanding of the complex oceanographic processes affected by its dynamics. The study will be completed in 2017.
Evaluation of the Use of Chemical Dispersants in Oil Spill Response: A comprehensive synthesis to assess the effects and efficacy of dispersants as an oil spill response. The study is being led by the Ocean Studies Board and will be completed in 2018.
Long-Term Coastal Zone Dynamics: A study to identify the research needed to improve understanding of interactions and feedback between physical processes and coastal development along the U.S. Gulf Coast. The study is being led by the Board on Earth Sciences and Resources and will be completed in 2018.
Measuring Community Resilience: A study to determine effective ways to measure the resilience of a community to natural hazards and other disruptions. The study is being led by the Office of Special Projects and will be completed in 2018.
Preparing for a Rapid Response to Major Offshore Oil Spills: A workshop to explore key research and data needs for improving public health response and protection during and after oil spills. The workshop is being led by the Board on Health Sciences Policy and will occur in 2017.
International Workshop on Experience with Performance-Based Regulation in the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry: A workshop to convene international representatives to examine experiences with performance-based safety regulations. The workshop is being led by the Transportation Research Board and will occur in 2017.