The fourth year since the GRP began, 2017 was quite busy and a decidedly productive one. As we phased out of start-up mode, we settled into having operations established and being able to provide an increasing number of funding opportunities and awards. In addition, we also took steps toward launching the GRP’s next exciting phase: a suite of larger, interrelated, long-term activities we plan to start implementing in the coming years.
As we move into the GRP’s next phase, we now think of the components of the GRP’s work in terms of short-term activities and long-term activities. Short-term activities are the yearly cycles of grant and fellowship opportunities that have made up the bulk of the GRP’s externally visible efforts since 2015. Long-term activities are the larger, long-term activities mentioned above that will become a central feature of the GRP’s future work.
The year 2017 was a big one for our grants and fellowships. We announced a record number of new grant awards: 25 totaling almost $25 million. Four awards under our Thriving Communities Initiative focus on bringing researchers and practitioners together to work on coastal community resilience in the Gulf of Mexico region. Six awards under our Safer Offshore Energy Systems Initiative support research on mitigating risk in offshore oil and gas operations. Twelve awards under our Capacity Building Initiative focus on helping community networks make more effective use of science to serve community needs and address coastal challenges. Finally, three awards provide seed funding to pairings of GRP fellows or fellow alumni to support collaborative, cross-disciplinary research that takes each other’s work in previously unexplored directions; these grants are aimed at helping reinforce and expand the impact of the researcher network being built by the GRP’s fellowship programs. Looking ahead, we opened four new grant competitions in 2017 for awards that will be announced in 2018. In addition, as some of the GRP’s first grant awards began reaching completion in 2017, we look forward to soon being able to start sharing stories about the accomplishments and impacts of these previous investments.
The GRP’s fellowship programs continued in 2017 with our third class of fellows having 10 new Early-Career Research Fellows and 9 new Science Policy Fellows. Applications for the 2018 class of GRP fellows opened in December 2017. In addition, we maintained our participation and support for the National Academies’ Christine Mirzayan Science & Technology Policy Graduate Fellowship program and the GRP hosted two fellows during early 2017.
As indicated, we also made great progress in laying out plans for the GRP’s future. For our grants we developed a 5-year schedule for when competitions under each of the GRP’s four initiatives will occur, and going forward we will start making this information public farther in advance so that potential applicants can better anticipate and plan. Future grant competitions will all be devised to be synergistic with our long-term activities, which brings me to one of the most exciting developments of 2017.
Ultimately, the GRP’s long-term vision is to facilitate significant contributions of research and capacity whose impacts endure far beyond the program’s 30-year endowment. As the primary foundation for doing so, the GRP is developing a suite of large, interrelated, long-term activities intended to bring lasting scientific and societal benefits to the Gulf region. We expect to begin sharing details about these activities and engaging stakeholders to assist in further developing them in 2018. These activities will then be launched in the following years and continue during the remainder of the GRP’s lifespan.
Interim Executive Director and Director of External Funding Opportunities