Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI)?
A: The GoMRI is BP’s commitment to provide $500 million in funding over the course of 10 years for independent scientific research related to the Deepwater Horizon incident.
Q: What is the purpose of the GoMRI?
A: The goal of the GoMRI is to improve society’s ability to understand, respond to, and mitigate the impacts of petroleum pollution and related stressors of the marine and coastal ecosystems, with an emphasis on conditions found in the Gulf of Mexico. Knowledge accrued will be applied to restoration and to improvement of the long-term environmental health of the Gulf of Mexico.
Q: What are the specific areas of study that will be funded?
A: The research will involve sampling, modeling and studies – not acquisition or construction of infrastructure such as ships or laboratories. The objectives of GoMRI will be to address the following five themes:
- Physical distribution, dispersion, and dilution of petroleum (oil and gas), its constituents, and associated contaminants (e.g., dispersants) under the action of physical oceanographic processes, air–sea interactions, and tropical storms;
- Chemical evolution and biological degradation of the petroleum/dispersant systems and subsequent interaction with coastal, open-ocean, and deep-water ecosystems;
- Environmental effects of the petroleum/dispersant system on the sea floor, water column, coastal waters, beach sediments, wetlands, marshes, and organisms; and the science of ecosystem recovery;
- Technology developments for improved response, mitigation, detection, characterization, and remediation associated with oil spills and gas releases; and
- Fundamental scientific research integrating results from the other four themes in the context of public health.
Q: How soon will the funding be distributed?
A: For Program Year 1, a series of fast-track grants were made by BP to accelerate data acquisition and analysis: Louisiana State University ($5 million), the Northern Gulf Institute ($10 million), the Florida Institute of Oceanography ($10 million), the Alabama Marine Environmental Sciences Consortium ($5 million) and the National Institutes of Health ($10m).
For Program Year 2-4, a Request for Proposal was issued in April 2011 for large consortia and awards were announced in August 2011.
Q: Who’s going to decide what gets funded?
A: Although GoMRI will be managed by the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, proposal funding selection will be directed by a Research Board composed of scientists from academic institutions with peer-recognized credentials. Funds will be distributed using the practice of merit review by peer evaluation as described in the 2005 Report of the National Science Board (NSB-05-119). Individual researchers will comply with professional standards as laid out in the National Academy of Sciences Publication – On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research (2009).
Q: What is the GoMRI Research Board and how was it established?
A: The Research Board consists of twenty individuals with scientific, public health, or administration expertise and is chaired by Dr. Rita Colwell. The Research Board was established by the Master Research Agreement, which is the legal document that established the GoMRI research program. To learn more about the history of the Research Board visit: http://gulfresearchinitiative.org/gri-research-board/
Q: Will there be a listing of research proposals that receive funding?
A: As soon as funding awards are made, summaries of research proposals will be posted to http://www.gulfresearchinitiative.org/research/awards/
Q: Will the funding only be spent in the Gulf region?
A: It is anticipated that the independent scientific research will be conducted at academic institutions primarily in the Gulf Coast states. However, appropriate partnerships with institutions based outside the US Gulf region are welcome.
Q: On what will the $500M be spent?
A: These funds will support operating expenditures for the GoMRI, including:
- Support for co-investigators, postdoctoral researchers, graduate and undergraduate research students, and associated research expenses. Support for Consortium Director/ principal investigator, postdoctoral researchers, graduate and undergraduate research students, and associated research expenses at the Consortium Director or principal investigator’s institution;
- Sub-awards to support co-principal investigators, postdoctoral researchers, graduate and undergraduate research students, and associated research expenses at up to three other institutions;
- Field tests and demonstration projects needed to prove new technology;
- Costs of establishing and maintaining a publicly accessible, transparent database of information generated by the GoMRI that is consistent with modern informatics best practices;
- Funding of research vessel expeditions, research aircraft flights, small boat operations, and use of other large research facilities, such as computer modeling centers, scanning electron microscopes, and major analytical chemistry or analytical biology instrument centers;
- Fast-action GoMRI Year 1 block grants awarded by BP to Gulf institutions or Consortia of institutions and to the National Institutes of Health in the initial and past first year of GoMRI funding;
- Costs associated with operation of the Research Board Administrative Support Group, GoMRI AU, GoMRI Grant Unit, and Research Board functions; and
- Standard academic overhead (e.g., US Government approved overhead rates for research grants from such entities as the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – whichever agency is the oversight audit agency for federal grants and contracts at that institution) that supports the costs of the physical infrastructure and the administration of research activities.
Q: Will the results of the research be shared with the public?
A: Yes. Scientific results will be published in peer-reviewed scientific journals and should be publically available as soon as appropriate. In addition, summaries of research projects will be posted to www.gulfresearchinitaitive.org periodically as updated information becomes available.
Q: We’ve heard that the Governors are distributing the money. Is this true?
A: No. Proposal funding for the GoMRI will be directed by a Research Board composed of scientists from academic institutions with peer-recognized credentials. BP and the governors of the five Gulf States appointed an equal number of research scientists to the board. The Gulf of Mexico Alliance will administer the GoMRI with the ability to execute contracts and provide the required program management support.
Q: How will GoMRI ensure scientific integrity?
A: To ensure scientific integrity, GoMRI uses National Science Board peer evaluation protocols to select funded research. Independent reviews are performed by scientific peers, not affiliated with institutions who propose projects or with BP to avoid conflicts of interest in the selection of funded research. All peer reviewers sign conflict of interest and non-disclosure agreements. BP has no role in the peer review process or selection of awards.
Q: Will BP be able to restrict the research results?
A: No. All GoMRI-funded research will be independent of BP, and the results will be published in peer-reviewed scientific journals with no requirement for BP approval; however, research institutions and individual researchers must comply with professional standards as laid out in the National Academy of Sciences Publication – On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research (2009).
Q: How is the GoMRI related to the penalties and fines being assessed to the responsible parties for the oil spill?
A: GoMRI is an independent, voluntary initiative sponsored by BP and is in not related to any litigation, fine or penalties resulting from the oil spill.
Q: Is GoMRI a part of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process?
A: GoMRI is separate from the NRDA process, which is a legal process to determine injuries or lost use of the public’s natural resources as a result of the oil spill. As part of the NRDA process, technical working groups composed of state and federal natural resource Trustees and representatives from BP’s environmental consulting firms are gathering scientific information and are implementing baseline and post-impact field studies for multiple natural resources. More info on the Gulf of Mexico NRDA process can be found here http://www.darrp.noaa.gov/.
Q: How is GoMRI related to the efforts to restore the Gulf Coast Ecosystems?
A: Given that all data and information derived from the GoMRI will be made public, it is anticipated that the knowledge accrued will be applied to restoration and to improve the long-term health of the Gulf of Mexico. However, the GoMRI is independent of any legal settlement, fines or penalties which may be utilized to implement a Gulf Coast ecosystem restoration agenda which is being led by the Environmental Protection Agency (http://www.epa.gov/gcertf/).
Q: What is the Gulf of Mexico Alliance?
A: The Gulf of Mexico Alliance is a partnership of the states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, with the goal of significantly increasing regional collaboration to enhance the ecological and economic health of the Gulf of Mexico. Formalized in 2004 and endorsed by all five state governors, the Alliance has identified six priority issues that are regionally significant and can be effectively addressed through increased collaboration at local, state, and federal level. For more information, visit www.gulfofmexicoalliance.org.
Q: What is the Consortium for Ocean Leadership?
A: The Consortium for Ocean Leadership is a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization that represents 99 of the leading public and private ocean resaerch education institutions, aquaria and industry with the mission to shape the future of ocean science and technology through discovery, understanding and action. Ocean Leadership has been contracted by GOMA to lend its established experience and expertise in running peer-review processes, managing research grants, enhancing scientific opportunities and publicizing the results. For more information visit www.oceanleadership.org
General questions about the GoMRI should be directed to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Specific questions for the Research Board and the RFP process should be directed to: email@example.com