Farewell 2020 – GoMRI Synthesis & Legacy

(From Farewell 2020 Newsletter) Contributing Author: Callan Yanoff

Over three years ago, in April of 2017, a small group of GoMRI Research Board members got together to begin considering how to synthesize all we have learned during GoMRI. Utilizing the five GoMRI Research Themes as a guide, this group identified a number of critical questions and subject areas which would serve as the backbone for what eventually turned into the eight Core Areas and five key questions that shaped the entire Synthesis and Legacy effort.

Even from those early days, the goal of documenting scientific achievements and advances to lead to new understanding and improved practices remained consistent. As each Core Area developed and more scientists, practitioners, and community leaders were brought in, the initial scope expanded to fill in gaps and explore emerging questions more comprehensively – for example, how many people knew what allostatic load was at that time?

Synthesis guidelines soon evolved into flexible instructions, encouraging leaders to capitalize on the immense collection of GoMRI talent and knowledge to make each workshop their own. These individual and creative approaches have driven results far past expectations – not even a global pandemic could slow down this effort as recent workshops have continued as scheduled by quickly and cleverly adapting to run virtually. What was initially envisioned as a series of five or six workshops, turned into a much larger and even more ambitious undertaking. Synthesis leaders have now completed 20 unique workshops, 10 conference special sessions, and collected input from nearly 600 different experts.

While the thrust of the GoMRI-funded research was focused in the Gulf of Mexico, the Synthesis and Legacy efforts were instructed to take a broader view. Lessons learned from these workshops and conferences were identified as applicable to research in different parts the country. The Synthesis knowledge exchange was not only far-reaching geographically, but has involved many subgroups of the user community, including oil spill responders, NGOs, industry, and federal entities.

A critical aspect of the Synthesis and Legacy effort has been that each workshop is designed to be a working session with specific outputs – the products of which are open access for all to learn from. Thus far, over 50 new products have stemmed from workshops, cross-consortia collaboration, and Research Board-led efforts. The products have taken a variety of forms, including books, special journal issues, peer-reviewed publications, workshop reports, recorded webinars, professional diagrams, and conference sessions. This immense collection of outstanding Synthesis papers and reports will undoubtedly continue to shape the way we understand and respond to any future oil events.

The final piece of this effort will be a GoMRI Special Issue in Oceanography magazine, coming out in Spring 2021. This issue is intended to be a high-level overview, synthesizing new knowledge for a broad and general audience and represents the culmination of the entire GoMRI Synthesis and Legacy effort pulling together what was known, what was learned, what questions still remain, how this knowledge is applied, and where to go next.

Please continue to visit the Synthesis and Legacy website for more information, especially the Products page, as many developing products will be published in the coming year.

We would like to sincerely thank all of our Research Board members, Core Area leaders, and Synthesis participants. This effort could not have blossomed into the expansive project it is today without each and every one of you.

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