BP and the governors of the five Gulf Coast states announced plans Wednesday to funnel a promised $500 million in research funds through an organization run by the governors, not the nation’s scientific community.
As word leaked out before the announcement that politicians would have considerable control over the BP research money, scientists voiced fears that most of the grants would be doled out to institutions in the governors’ home states, raising the possibility of pork barrel projects.
The announcement sought to allay such concerns, saying: “Independent scientific research will be conducted at academic institutions primarily in the US Gulf Coast states. However, appropriate partnerships with institutions based outside the US Gulf region will be welcome.”
It remains unclear if research organizations outside the Gulf Coast, such as the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, would be permitted to apply for grants on their own or would have to link up with local scientists.
The fund, called the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, would be administered by a coalition of the governors of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida to study the environmental and health effects of the Deepwater Horizon spill. All grant applications would have to undergo a peer-review process, BP and the governors’ group said.
The research initiative would focus on five major areas, including the study of chemical dispersants used to break up the oil, the effects of the spill on Gulf ecosystems and studying technological developments that could aid in future offshore spill response.