Summer 2019 – Frequently Asked Questions with Dr. Chuck Wilson

(From Summer 2019 Newsletter) Dr. Chuck Wilson, Chief Scientific Officer for the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI), answered a few frequently asked questions.

Question: Please tell us about your role as Chief Scientific Officer for GoMRI.

Answer: It has been an honor and privilege to work with a remarkable Research Board, a highly professional GoMRI Management Team, and an incredible community of scientists. Together we built the processes and engine for awarding and managing the best science, tracking the results, and preserving the data from GoMRI’s investment. From the development of Request for Proposals (RFPs) through the proposal solicitation, review process, and execution of scientific investigation, I have had the fortune of meeting new people and learning about science way outside my personal sphere of experience. I guess my primary duty has been communication; I work with the GoMRI Management Team to keep the Board, research community, and public informed about what we have learned, what it means, and how we can use it.

Question: How do you think the outcomes of GoMRI’s Synthesis and Legacy effort (an update on Synthesis and Legacy activities can be found on page 8 of this issue) will benefit the oil spill community after the end of GoMRI?

Answer: The Research Board thinks about that question a lot and two thoughts come to mind. The obvious piece is application of the basic and applied science that has been published in various scientific journals (currently in excess of 1,300 research publications). The use of some GoMRI results are more obvious now than others; the more basic and exploratory science in chemistry, physics, and biology will likely prove useful to oil spill preparedness, response, and recovery for years to come. The second benefit relates to mutual understanding and appreciation. The oil industries’ scientific communities have historically operated somewhat independent of the academic science community; there are some exceptions, but that is the nature of corporations. GoMRI’s presence has facilitated a mutual understanding and built stronger ties between both research engines; that too should persist for years to come.

Question: From your perspective as GoMRI’s Chief Scientific Officer, what do you think the legacy of GoMRI will be?

Answer: When I think about GoMRI’s legacy I reflect on the scientific advances and archived data made possible through GoMRI’s investments over the past nine years. GoMRI-funded research teams have explored the bottom of the ocean, tracked currents, discovered new species, explored how oil and dispersants work and affect a variety of organisms, and gained insights into the impact and recovery of the Gulf of Mexico post-Deepwater Horizon. I am also very proud of and excited for the undergraduate and graduate students that have been part of GoMRI. Nearly1,600 graduate students and post docs have or will enter the workforce; they will remain united as products of GoMRI. The third element of GoMRI’s legacy is the research capacity created by BP’s $500,000,000 investment. Teams of researchers from around the United States and various parts of the world came together to explore the Gulf of Mexico and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Those teams and relationships will continue for decades to come.

[Back to the Summer 2019 Newsletter]