Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Keeping you informed: Scientific Research Investigation Standard in completing federally funded researches into BP pollution of the Gulf of Mexico

British Petroleum (BP) wants to get you informed? Yes they do, but would probably not share information on the level of environmental pollution, chemically, biologically and genetically, of the Gulf Coast ecology, since its huge oil spill in April. BP would want to get you informed, but has the first right of refusal to information and results of investigation into the level of chemical, biological and physiological damage to the star fish, shrimps and other marine wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico. Most scientists, who are working on BP funded research effort into the repercussion of the oil spill in the Gulf, are more likely to share their results and findings with the management of BP than with the general public. This is not that all these investigators would not want to share their findings, but the researchers and investigators are not required to swear before the courts that their results and findings are the truth and nothing but the truth.

In fact, scientists with funded research work from BP can plead the fifth to their findings and the courts can do practically nothing! If you want authentic findings and results from the extent of ecological damage from the oil spill, you will have to wait for federal investigators and or, government funded research effort to determine to what extent the oil spill has damaged our ecological habitat, chemically, biologically and genetically. Even at that, findings from these researches may take a long time, real long time, like a decade or two, before we can objectively say, with certainty; this is what that BP’s oil spill of April 2010, wroth on our ecological habitat.

Rethinking the parameters or standard to adhere to in conducting and completing chemical, biological and genetically assessments of what has happened in the Gulf of Mexico, is a hot topic for good reason. Individual disciplinary researchers collaborate in different ways and on different levels and in cases of multi-disciplinary researches, criteria and standards of investigations expected by the federally funded research work often has the blessing of something like the Rule of the Road to the scientific research investigations from the funding agency. These kinds of research are given something like a moral guide-light, which serves as a barometer of what you can do and not do, with the money allocated to such research effort.

Scientists interested in conducting these kinds of researches work within the guidelines and limitations handed down by funding agencies; and, beneficiaries of the research funds are expected to take care as they go about their investigations; and, many of these researchers are known to have exercised due diligence in completing the investigations, either in the field or in the laboratory. The importance of these guidelines is better appreciated, when some of the findings are presented as evidence in litigation against BP or, its insurers. Under these guidelines, we are able to quickly ascertain the probable causes of why so many ruins of the habitat specie of fishes are attributed to the oil spill. We can either associate the dwindling fish run to the poisoning to their larvae, from the current oil spill. The investigators of federally funded research work understand the implications of their findings and the weight associated to their findings from aggrieved parties. That is why, we as a public, can somewhat depend on these findings as better than others to prove our case. We get the opportunity to depend on the results of these investigations than those funded by BP, the perpetrator of the offense.

Research scientist need and want guidelines regarding how they are supposed to proceed in testing hypothesis associated with probable causes of environmental pollution from BP’s oil spill. The importance of these guidelines is hardly lost to independent peer-review groups, who expect concrete objective assessments of natural resource damages. As a community of knowledge creators, research scientists are expected to remain true and honest with respect to how they conduct investigations to ensure that there is no fraud in the representation of results and findings, or in the literature used to buttress arguments regarding their suspicions of environmental damage. Realizing that if ever, a scientific fraud is suspected in findings and publication, it could have some repercussions on the justification or disputation of damages from the accidental explosion experience at the Deepwater Horizon rig. No one would like to be in the middle of an integrity fiasco, if researchers muddle up their findings, or refuse to self-police, resulting in questionable findings and conclusions regarding what have happened to our ecology and marine habitat since the rig’s collapse, oil leakage and unstable capping of the well.

To prevent any form of collusion or complications as regards the parameters and integrity of data from the ocean floors around the doomed rig, it may be necessary for the federal funding agencies to reiterate, federal regulatory procedures regarding ways and steps to follow in completing investigations into issues and handling potentially disputable results, especially in the wake of NOAA’s declarations that majority of the oil spewed from the Macando well, has been eaten up by bacteria and some apprehensive observers complaining that this is not so. Federally funded researches are expected to be above board and are often so, except in some instances; and, where these have been acrimonious, other independent researchers have been called to authenticate the disputed results of the findings in question.

To avoid duplicity, it is ideal that the rules that scientists and researchers are to follow in exploring chemical, biological and physiological implication of the oil spill, are made explicit, right from the go. It is also important, that the natural resource damage assessments allow for independent referee’s work and where there are deviations in conclusions and implications, addendum attached to disputations to give a balanced assessment of the findings and inferences. Combining multi-disciplinary investigators to work on these investigations will help bring different disciplinary perspectives into evaluating the findings and allow for improvement in results and capability of work completed. Some challenging issues that have brought down some investigations in the past have included, data acquisition process, data analysis, data retention, research methodologies and acrimonious conclusions. These are issues that rules of the road from a federally funded research grant helps to prevent, as it offers some guidelines regarding the does and don'ts of the endeavor.

There are some suspicions in the scientific community that the federal government has been slow to act on releasing the rules and guidelines that investigators seeking federally funded grants for investigating the problem associated with BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, have to follow. However, others in the community maintain that it is not too late and that the rules of the road may actually come at an opportune time, when the oil leaks are said to have ended and there is enough room to assess damage to the ecological habitat. The traditional review process of what is known to have occurred so far, and what is unknown, could actually form the basis for determining the parameters to guide investigators as to what to do and where to go, to find out more information and data regarding what is happening or has happened on the ocean floor.

The rules for scientist to follow in investigations as these are often based on predetermined goals. The rules of the road are expected to capture those factors that may be obscure in the eye of the researchers that may make the investigations difficult or suspect to a keen eye. They also may reflect current conversations on the actions already taken and the impact that those actions have had on the environment. Where solutions, ideas and expertise are relevant to the goal of the investigation, the rule of the road, may actually direct investigators to the right issues for further investigations, before objective and prudent conclusions are reached.

Many of the long standing rules and regulations of federal agencies funded research work are accolades to the process of finding the truth, regarding what has happened to our ecology from BP oil spill. Research scientists on the proposed investigations are expected to adhere to scientific methodologies that are not controversial for the results to be believable among the general public. In addition, research scientists are expected to pay distinct attention to integrity of the results, for drawn conclusions to have the desired impact for corrective actions. Such conclusions can either make or break a case before a jury hearing the case against British Petroleum on the Deepwater Horizon disaster, in the Gulf of Mexico.

For now, the scientific research investigation standard for completing federal funded research effort with respect to the natural resource assessment damages are probably in one of the agencies or working its way through the usual process of government bureaucracy. However, it is essential that this standard is released in earnest, along with available funding, for work to begin on the long arduous journey to resolving the challenges of the ecological damage to our environment from BP’s mayhem!