Considerations for Scientists Getting Involved in Oil Spill Research
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Considerations for Scientists Getting Involved in Oil Spill Research

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    From the outset of the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill, scientists from many different sectors (e.g., government, industry, academia, independent) sprang into action to establish appropriate experimental procedures, collect essential samples, and gather meaningful data. The scale of the spill and the unprecedented use of dispersants challenged scientists familiar with oil spill research, but also drew in many scientists new to hydrocarbon studies. The response to DWH, as with other oil spills, was centered on environmental and human safety concerns as mandated by the US Clean Water Act, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, and the National Contingency Plan, which defines roles and responsibilities of multiple parties. These roles, however, are usually carried out by government, industry, or government-contracted researchers and until DWH have included limited input from academic investigators. In studying the DWH spill, most researchers also had to navigate the logistics and liability issues that can be associated with an oil spill event, including the formal government response processes that can be unfamiliar to academic researchers. In particular, biological researchers had to rapidly educate themselves on the nuances and complexity of the hydrocarbons and dispersants throughout the water column. Nonetheless, biological studies were hampered by the lack of controls or challenges with employing experimental approaches in the field. DWH spill research also highlighted challenges and opportunities that arose due to the interactions of researchers from the academic, government, and industry sectors. The objective of this document is to provide some perspective and to highlight issues that researchers new to the area should consider when approaching oil spill and dispersant studies.
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    Oceanography, 34(1), 112-123
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    CC BY
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