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The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions (2003)

Chapter: 3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures

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Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×

3
Grant Award Policies and Procedures

The Oil Spill Recovery Institute (OSRI) provides its funds to outside investigators primarily through an open, competitive process (with some exceptions, as discussed in Chapter 6). OSRI’s grant policies are outlined in its Oil Spill Recovery Institute Grant Policy Manual. The current edition is dated January 2002 and reflects revisions as the OSRI program has evolved. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute modeled its basic grant policies and procedures on those used by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Undersea Research Program. Proposals are solicited primarily through Broad Area Announcements (BAAs), although Requests for Proposals (RFPs) are sometimes used.1 The content of the BAAs varies each year based on recommendations by the OSRI Advisory Board. According to the Grant Policy Manual, “cooperative” proposals between researchers

1  

As applied by most agencies and research programs, Broad Area Announcements (BAAs) set out a broad goal and rely on those who propose activities to define how they will achieve the goal. For instance, this is how DOD and NSF move forward on questions of infrastructure or equipment procurements. The proposer tells what is needed, how it addresses the goal, and why it is important, and the program administrators judge which proposal best suits their needs. In contrast, Requests for Proposals (RFPs) are generally more proscriptive, outlining goals and objectives more explicitly, but generally also rely on the proposer to develop the plan. An example is the NSF call for proposals for its Biocomplexity Initiative. Finally, contracts are used when specific services and defined deliverables and products are needed, such as computer systems, publication services, and routine data collection. OSRI has at times blurred the lines between these types.

Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×

and users are encouraged with cost sharing being used as one metric of user interest. In addition, multidisciplinary and multi-institutional projects are encouraged. Funding may be in the form of grants, contracts, or cooperative agreements. Awards vary by size and level of approval required: the January 2002 edition of the Grant Policy Manual gives the director authority to approve small awards (less than $25,000 per year), but additional approval by the Scientific and Technical Committee (STC) is now required for medium-size awards ($25,000 up to $100,000 per year), and by the OSRI Advisory Board for large awards (e.g., $100,000 per year). Additional general information on policies can be found in the Grant Policy Manual (OSRI, 1998, 2002b).

PROCESS TO SOLICIT PROPOSALS

BAAs and Other Announcements

According to the OSRI Grant Policy Manual, BAAs are to be “issued annually by the OSRI to solicit proposals” within the three program areas. The manual does not provide specific timelines for BAAs or other policies related to the circulation of BAAs. BAAs are generally advertised in the Commerce Business Daily, various newspapers, local television, radio, and sometimes announcements at regional, national, and international conferences or through e-mail networks such as LABNET, EVOS Trustee Council mail lists, and more. Three sample BAAs are included in Boxes 3-1, 3-2, and 3-3, and additional examples are included in Appendix F.

The committee has concerns about how the solicitation process is used. First, there is no pattern or regularity to these announcements, and the amount of time allowed for response varies from announcement to announcement. This lack of predictability or regularity in advertisements and deadlines diminishes the likelihood that high-quality researchers not currently affiliated with or funded by OSRI will see opportunities to participate. A nationally competitive program will be achieved only by encouraging broad participation from leading figures. OSRI needs to implement improvements in the writing and advertising of its solicitations for proposals. All solicitations should be open for more reasonable amounts of time (e.g., three months) following broad advertising to allow for maximal response by potential proposers.

Solicitations for research proposals (whether BAAs or RFPs) have not always been publicly announced long enough for adequate responses to be generated. One example is the BAA seeking proposals related to Biological Monitoring of Herring and Pollock in Prince William Sound: it was posted on December 15, 1999 and had a closing deadline of January 7, 2000 (Box 3-1). In addition to the brief opening, this solicitation included

Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×

BOX 3-1 Broad Area Announcement for OSRI’s Predictive Ecology Program

Deadline for receipt of applications: January 7, 2000.

Date this BAA was posted: December 15, 1999.

Request for Proposals—Biological Monitoring (Herring and Pollock in PWS)

The Oil Spill Recovery Institute (OSRI) is seeking proposals to conduct echointegration surveys of herring and pollock biomass in Prince William Sound (PWS) during February-March of 2000. OSRI anticipates staging two surveys out of Cordova, Alaska, with each survey lasting one to two weeks in duration. Precise dates will depend upon weather and fish behavior. The maximum amount of funding for this contract is $60,000.

Professional services sought through this RFP include the survey prelogistics (design, equipment preparation, etc.), data acquisition, data analysis, and reporting of acoustic results. Data acquisition and analysis will require coordination with Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G). ADF&G personnel are responsible for vessel charter and biological sampling of the acoustic targets. The selected contractor will provide, install, and operate all scientific echosounding necessary for estimation of pollock and herring biomass equipment onboard a vessel provided by ADF&G. Scientific acoustic equipment should consist of: 1) a current model echo-sounder, operating at 38-120 kHz simultaneously with a GPS receiver for the collection of time-linked, geographic-coded acoustic data, 2) a transducer mounted in a downward-looking configuration within a towed body, 3) all necessary computer equipment and software to acquire and process data. Additionally, cooperation with other researchers and technologists that OSRI might employ is deemed essential.

After the completion of field data collection the selected contractor will work with ADF&G to identify and convert acoustic data into fish density and biomass (length frequency, length-weight relationships, species composition, etc.). The contractor will prepare a preliminary and final report detailing the acoustic survey methods, the analysis of acoustic signals and the estimated biomass present in the survey area. An electronic copy of the 2d arrays of acoustic data from survey transects in ASCII file format is also a requirement. The final report and data file will be due on the July 30 following the survey.

As part of the collaborative agreement between OSRI and ADF&G, the selected contractor is required to make copies of the final report and data set available to ADF&G on July 30th. Preliminary reporting to ADF&G will be made at the earliest possible convenience after the survey. This information will be used by ADF&G for fisheries management.

Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×

The design will use all available aerial, vessel, and historical information on the distribution of fish to reduce size of the survey to a reasonable area. Where fish concentrations are found, repeated nighttime surveys will be conducted over their concentrations until enough “good” repetitions are made to reduce the influence of truncation. On each survey as many near-parallel acoustic transects should be made as possible in the area that covers a known concentration of fish. After the fish are repeatedly surveyed, a coordinated effort will be made with ADF&G to target known concentrations of the fish monitored for biological information. Every large concentration of fish must be sampled effectively with nets to insure accuracy of the survey information.

Prospective contractors interested in submitting proposals should direct technical questions and project proposals to the OSRI staff (Gary Thomas, Walter Cox or Nancy Bird) at P.O. Box 705, Cordova AK 99574, (907) 424-5800. Proposals should contain the name and address of the firm; name, address, phone and fax numbers of the contact person for the proposal; a comprehensive description of the equipment and procedures to be used; as well as a brief description of the qualification of the firm and key personnel. Experience of key personnel is critical. The deadline for proposals is January 7, 2000, and proposals must be received by the deadline to be considered. Contractors wishing to submit a proposal are advised that qualification and capabilities will be considered in the evaluation process. Specific criteria that will be used to evaluate proposals include:

  1. The capabilities, related experience, facilities, equipment, techniques and methods of the proposing organization.

  2. The capabilities, qualifications and experience of the proposing organization’s key personnel involved in actively performing the data acquisition, analysis and reporting.

  3. The organization’s record of past performance with similar types of projects. Applicants should include references to aid in evaluation of performance criteria.

  4. The organization’s estimated cost to perform the required professional services.

  5. Proposers that anticipate problems with meeting the following timeline for the project, or that are inflexible with the delays that might be caused by inclement weather should address these concerns in their proposal.

Pollock survey schedule:

December 15, 1999—Solicitations issued

January 7, 2000—Final day for submission of proposals

January 14, 2000—Award contract

January 2000—Presurvey logistics (calibration and field trials)

Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×

February 17, 2000—Install equipment

February 20, 2000—Begin acoustic survey (approximately two weeks)

April 1, 2000—All biological data available from ADF&G

July 2000—Draft final report and data file due

December 2000—Final report as a manuscript submitted for publication

Herring survey schedule:

December 15, 1999—Solicitations issued

January 7, 2000—Final day for submission of proposals

January 14, 2000—Award contract

January 2000—Presurvey logistics (calibration and field trials)

March 17, 2000—Install equipment

March 20, 2000—Begin acoustic survey (approximately two weeks)

June 1, 2000—All biological data available from ADF&G

July 2000—Draft final report and data file due

an extremely detailed schedule and was awarded to a former colleague of the director, which added to perception problems in the science community. One announcement seeking a workshop facilitator was posted on March 29, 2002, with an original deadline of April 19, 2002 (although this was subsequently extended to June 3, 2002), showing that the practice was still occurring as of June 2002.

OSRI generally discourages unsolicited proposals, but the Grant Policy Manual outlines procedures for dealing with them. Unsolicited proposals falling “within the scope of OSRI’s mission” may be evaluated through the normal review process. Unsolicited proposals that are determined to fall outside the immediate scope of open BAAs, but are of interest to OSRI, may lead to the issuance of a related BAA. The unsolicited proposal would then be reviewed along with any others generated through the BAA process. This policy may discourage novel science or technologies because any novel areas identified by potential researchers would then be made public through the formal review process that followed. Some unique opportunities may be lost by not having a mechanism to deal with unsolicited proposals. One approach would be to have a periodic open BAA (e.g., once every two years) that specifically solicits novel studies related to the OSRI mission.

For solicited proposals, the nature of the solicitations is intended to be steered by the annual work plans, with approval from the Advisory Board. In its review, the committee was surprised by the great variability in the

Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×

depth of information provided in the BAAs examined. Box 3-2 is a BAA that solicits proposals for modeling of mesoscale atmospheric conditions in Prince William Sound, and the text describing what is clearly a complex need is extraordinarily brief. The BAA for atmospheric modeling of Prince William Sound called for a specific application for a particular need OSRI had identified. Thus, it would be more appropriately solicited with an RFP stating the requirements. Also, the total text of the second paragraph is quite short. In the first example (see Box 3-1) the text describing what was needed for biological monitoring of herring and pollock in Prince William Sound is extensive and detailed. In fact, the committee was surprised that the biological monitoring solicitation was considered a BAA, given its proscriptive nature. A BAA for such a project, if designed to bring forward a variety of thinking, might have been phrased to request: “Provide a survey of important biomass components of Prince William Sound in a manner compatible with their use in OSRI-funded modeling efforts.” The review process would then select the best ideas.

BOX 3-2 Broad Area Announcement for OSRI’s Applied Technology

Deadline for receipt of proposals: July 15, 2001.

Date this BAA was posted: not available.

Atmospheric Modeling of Prince William Sound

The Oil Spill Recovery Institute (OSRI) is soliciting proposals for modeling of mesoscale atmospheric conditions within Prince William Sound (PWS). This primary objectives sought through this solicitation are the design, development and validation of an atmospheric model (or selection, implementation and validation of a suitable existing model) for an environment with significant orographic effects. Additional objectives include: design of required initialization data sets; development of a graphical user interface; design of a data distribution scheme; and collaboration with other OSRI funded researchers in meeting OSRI objectives. The selected model will interact with other existing OSRI numerical models describing ocean currents (POM), oil spill dispersion and subsurface plume trajectories.

The work conducted through this advertisement will contribute to the development of a Nowcast/Forecast system for PWS incorporating physical and biological ecosystem dynamics within a three dimensional real-time ensemble of numerical models. A total of $100,000 dollars per year is available through this solicitation. The awarded contract will be renewable on an annual basis. Proposals providing for a supported FTE within a university, state or federal organization or agency will be considered.

Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×

BOX 3-3 Broad Area Announcement for OSRI’s Applied Technology Program

Deadline for receipt of applications: December 31, 1999.

Date this BAA was posted: October 6, 1999.

The OSRI announces a competition for Computer Simulation of the Spatial- Temporal Distribution and Impacts of Dispersed and Non-Dispersed Oil Spills

The Oil Spill Recovery Institute is accepting proposals for technologies that demonstrate three dimensional trajectories as well as the resulting physical and biological environmental impacts of dispersed and non-dispersed oil in arctic and subarctic marine environments. Proposals that focus on Alaskan oil transportation routes and utilize realistic models will be given preference.

The total FY99 budget for this program area is $200,000 and OSRI anticipates funding one or more projects from this total amount. The duration of the grant awards will be for one year with an option to renew.

Box 3-3 provides another example. This BAA is extremely brief and vague, particularly for a program with a $200,000 budget. There are only two sentences and a title indicating the subject area to potential researchers. The title and text imply that the BAA is requesting simulations of the spatial-temporal distribution and impacts of dispersed and nondispersed oil spills. The BAA also states that both physical and biological environmental impact modeling are to be demonstrated as a capability. This suggests that the models should have already been developed and that a simulation study is requested.

There is no indication in the Box 3-3 BAA that the funding was intended as a purchase of an oil spill model for OSRI that might be used to run simulations in PWS as part of the Nowcast/Forecast system, which is ultimately what was done. The project selected was to apply and implement an existing oil fates model (OSCAR) into the Nowcast/Forecast system. The model system does not have a biological impact model component. Thus, OSRI’s selection process for grants under this program was not advertised in the solicitation. In addition, the scope changed after advertising the BAA because the simulations of the spatial-temporal distribution and impacts of dispersed and nondispersed oil spills are now described as a different project called “Dispersion Impact Analysis.” The intended scope of this 2002 project (budget $150,000) is to use the OSCAR

Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×

model to conduct a range of dispersion scenarios to assist in future dispersant use planning and priority setting in real spill situations. The dispersion impact analysis project has not been advertised as a BAA and OSRI plans to run this activity in-house, using its staff.

Offering extremely vague solicitations opens the door to accusations that the winning proposals could only be submitted by people with previous knowledge of specifically what was desired. Also, the funding announced as available for many of the projects is so low that only someone already in the area could reasonably do the work. OSRI must write BAAs and RFPs that are consistent with its mission and long range plan and not simply write solicitations designed to garner known responses.

The committee deliberated on the appropriateness of using BAAs as the primary funding vehicle for soliciting research proposals, in contrast to other vehicles such as an RFP process. BAAs are appropriate for a number of the activities conducted by the OSRI (e.g., many of the educational activities or when novel technologies are being solicited), but projects with highly specific outcomes—that is, solicitations seeking a specific model—would be better solicited through an RFP process.

This discussion strikes at what is, perhaps, a fundamental question about OSRI, and confusion about the answer is at least in part what causes outside scientists to have some skepticism about the fairness of the organization’s procedures. Is OSRI a granting institution that allows the scientific community to drive the direction and mixture of projects (through the proposal process) under the general guidance of the mission, staff, and Advisory Board, as is stipulated in the authorizing legislation, or is OSRI management responsible for developing a directed science plan that they then implement through directed procurement of specific projects and products? OSRI is now operating in this latter mode. Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages, and neither is “more” right than the other. But it is likely that many in the science community, as well as other stakeholders, believe that the first approach is what was intended, leading to a perception of unfairness in how the program is currently administered.

If the top-down approach is a deliberate choice, OSRI needs to articulate this clearly and honestly, to avoid misunderstandings and disenchantment by proposers. And OSRI should be aware that this approach poses the risk of leading to a program that, overall, appeals primarily to the stakeholders in charge. It may be that this dilemma is behind the difference of opinion (explored in depth in Chapter 7) about the appropriate scope and focus of OSRI’s modeling efforts: this component is a highlight to many OSRI decision makers, but this committee believes the current emphasis on real-time spill response is inappropriate and perhaps duplicative of other efforts in the area.

Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×

These issues need to be addressed by the OSRI Advisory Board. It should consider whether the “top-down” approach is in the spirit of the legislation, whether it is effective and fair to appear to manage a broad solicitation process when most degrees of freedom are proscribed, whether there is an adequate mechanism in place to set priorities and vet ideas, or whether the program should be under the strong direction of management.

THE PEER REVIEW PROCESS

According to OSRI, peer reviewers are selected by staff and reviewed/ approved by the OSRI director. The staff focuses on academic institutions to provide peer reviews but also uses board and STC members, industry, agencies, and others to select peer reviewers with the proper expertise to review specific proposals. The February 2002 changes to the Grant Policy Manual include a provision that the STC members review all proposals recommended for award for $25,000 or over; therefore, those proposals will receive additional peer reviews, beyond the three required. People who submit proposals under a given BAA are not used to review other proposals under that BAA, and all reviewers are required to declare potential conflicts of interest and are not used if there is a conflict. When asked if there were requirements for geographical, expertise, or other criteria for the reviewer pool for an individual proposal, OSRI staff noted that reviewers are sought who possess relevant and appropriate knowledge of the subject, and that might include geographic or other specific expertise. A fairly even mixture of academia and private sector reviewers has been used. OSRI prefers to use the national and international academic arena to select peer reviewers for science proposals when appropriate.

The committee received a number of external comments, many negative, related to how proposals have been handled in the past. According to the current Grant Policy Manual, all proposals are reviewed “by at least three individual peer reviewers through a mail review and/or a panel review.” In the past, proposals often had only two reviews with a third requested if “deemed necessary.” This increase in number of reviewers is one of several examples of changes that have been made by the Advisory Board to improve the proposal process.

Until now all proposal reviews (with the exception of a few of the smaller education proposal reviews) have been accomplished through mail rather than panel review, although policy allows for either option. In the past, according to the OSRI director, staff formed small panels to make final funding decisions on all small and medium grants. Now, the Scientific and Technical Committee is used to decide funding on all medium size grants. The committee believes that recent changes in OSRI proce-

Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×

dures will improve the public perception of fairness in the process, and we commend OSRI and the Advisory Board for their continued efforts to improve the process. OSRI might consider adapting additional protocols of the National Science Foundation in selection of reviewers. For example, some reviewers could be selected from names provided by applicants. As with NSF, potential applicants could have the option of requesting that one or two people not be used as reviewers. Furthermore, applicants could be requested to submit information identifying relevant close colleagues such as previous graduate studies advisors, former graduate students, and co-principal investigators on other recent projects, so that these people are not inadvertently selected as reviewers.

The broad categories assessed by reviewers include need, benefits, implementation, financial matching, experience, milestones, repayments, and risk sharing. Once reviews have been completed, proposals are grouped according to their rankings: those receiving “fund” rankings only are placed at the top of the list, those receiving any “fund after minor revisions” are ranked in the middle of the list, and those receiving “do not fund” rankings are placed at the bottom of the list. Within each of those categories, decisions to fund are based on the ranking in the list, total dollars available, and the matching funds included in the project budget.

Although there have been problems (some real and some perceived) with the proposal process used by OSRI, most of these have been addressed by recent policy changes in the way grants are processed. If present policies for peer and panel review (as well as management of conflict of interest) adapted from those used by other granting institutions such as the National Science Foundation, Office of Naval Research, Minerals Management Service, and National Oceanographic Partnership Program are followed carefully, the process should be fair.

While all proposals are required to go through the above review process, final approval for funding differs depending on the funding level. Small projects can be approved directly by the OSRI director, medium-size projects by the Scientific and Technical Committee (following recommendation by the director), and large projects by the OSRI Advisory Board (following recommendation by the director, and the Scientific and Technical Committee). When there is a conflict between the director and the Scientific and Technical Committee regarding funding recommendations for medium-size proposals, the final decision is made by the OSRI Advisory Board. The policy does not spell out the level of participation by the Scientific and Technical Committee. Our committee would urge the STC to take an active role in evaluating the proposals and reviews forwarded to them.

Special conditions apply to proposals submitted by personnel in the PWSSC. The most significant of these is that “all proposals ranked higher

Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×

than a proposal submitted by the Prince William Sound Science Center (PWSSC) shall be offered an award prior to the Center’s proposal(s) being approved for funding support.” Should a situation occur where a PWSSC proposal is tied in ranking with a proposal from an outside entity, the proposal from the outside entity would be preferentially funded. To date, this situation apparently has not occurred. This preference to non-PWSSC proposals is a good policy, given that there have been perceptions of favoritism in the center.

NUMBER OF PROPOSALS AND SUCCESS RATIO

Responses to OSRI BAAs have ranged from 0 to 14 proposals (Table 3-1). Although the dataset is not large, there appears to be a downward trend in the number of proposals submitted for each BAA over time. For example, in FY98, 7 of 11 BAAs had more than 5 responses each, but by FY01 the greatest number of responses to any single BAA was 3. In FY00 only 3 of 9 BAAs had responses greater than 5 per BAA. Proposals actually funded for each BAA vary from 0 to 5. One item in the information provided to the committee appears incorrect: in FY01, 3 grants were made where only 1 proposal was received. All of these grants were for educational activities and were “small” grants as defined by the OSRI’s guidelines.

DISTRIBUTION OF FUNDS BY CATEGORIES

As mentioned earlier, the OSRI Advisory Board mandated that funds be spent in an approximate split of 40 percent for applied technology, 40 percent for predictive ecology, and 20 percent for education and outreach. These targets were more or less met in the four years evaluated (Table 3-2).

The committee was also interested in how OSRI distributed funds relative to the size of the grant awarded. Projects were broken down into small (less than $25,000), medium size ($25,000-$99,999), and large ($100,000 and greater) grants (Table 3-3). Grants were awarded across all categories with medium-size and large proposals comprising about an equal split in funding for a given year. While current policy dictates approval of medium-size proposals by the Scientific and Technical Committee and large proposals by the Advisory Board, it is our understanding that this policy was not in place for our evaluation period (FY98-01). The distribution of funds allowed the OSRI to fund from 23-25 projects each year from FY99 to FY01. Even with the current approval process in place, the director could spend a substantial portion of the budget by approving many small grants. The board may want to consider a maximum limit per year that can be spent on small projects. However, our committee believes

Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×

that the distribution of funds among small, medium-size and large grants was appropriate over the period evaluated (FY98-01).

COMPLIANCE WITH PROCEDURES

The OSRI proposal review process has evolved over time. Examples of changes in policy are the increasing the number of reviewers for each proposal and restricting the sole approval of projects by the director to those less than $25,000. The committee received a number of outside comments on the OSRI program, some of which expressed concern about what they believed to be actual or perceived fairness issues in the OSRI grant process. Some outside scientists perceived that OSRI relies too heavily on PWSSC staff for proposal review, that advertising of BAAs is not timely and some people are given the “inside track” before formal announcements are made, that deadlines set in BAAs are sometimes inappropriately short, and other issues. Some of these concerns have been addressed by official policy changes and some (whether real or perceived) could be addressed by formalizing the advertising of BAAs and RFPs and making advertisement of both more widespread.

RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PWSSC AND OSRI

The historical relationship between the Prince William Sound Science Center (PWSSC) and the Oil Spill Recovery Institute (OSRI) is expressed in the document “A Brief Overview of Prince William Sound Oil Spill Recovery Institute (OSRI) and Science Center (PWSSC),” which states,

In 1989, the Prince William Sound Science Center (PWSSC), a private 501(c)(3), non-profit corporation, developed and pursued the authorization of the Oil Spill Recovery Institute (OSRI) in the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA90) with assistance from the City of Cordova. OSRI was designed to be administered by PWSSC while its program is approved by an advisory board with strong public, industry and Alaska Native representation and a balance of relevant agency and academic members. Congress appropriated funds for the OSRI program in the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 1996 (CGAA96), after six years of research and education programs had established a credible science program at the PWSSC.

OSRI is administered by the PWSSC and shares administrative support with the PWSSC, perhaps most notably a director. By law, however, the OSRI has a separate mission to “identify and develop methods to deal with oil spills in the Arctic and subarctic environment and work to better understand the long-range effects of oil spills on the natural resources of Prince William Sound and its adjacent waters….” OSRI has come under

Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×

TABLE 3-1 Number of Proposals Submitted and Funded in Response to Broad Area Announcements (BAAs) by Fiscal Year

Year Announced

BAA Title

Program Area

FY98

Ice Hazards Workshop

Public Education & Outreach

Technical Writer

Public Education & Outreach

Small Spill Education

Public Education & Outreach

Webmaster

Public Education & Outreach

Public Information Services

Public Education & Outreach

Dispersant Workshop

Public Education & Outreach

Community Education

Public Education & Outreach

Nowcast/Forecast Ocean Circulation

Applied Technology & Predictive Ecology

Workshops (standing solicitation)

Public Education & Outreach

Student Internships (standing solicitation)

Public Education & Outreach

Graduate Fellowship (standing solicitation)

Public Education & Outreach

FY99

Graduate Fellowship (standing solicitation)

Public Education & Outreach

Ecology Programs

Predictive Ecology

Workshops (standing solicitation)

Public Education & Outreach

Student Internships (standing solicitation)

Public Education & Outreach

FY00

Remote Sensing

Applied Technology

Dispersed vs Nondispersed Simulation

Applied Technology

Small Spill Technology

Applied Technology

Webmaster

Public Education & Outreach

Plankton Monitoring

Predictive Ecology

Herring & Pollock Monitoring

Predictive Ecology

Graduate Fellowship (standing solicitation)

Public Education & Outreach

Student Internships (standing solicitation)

Public Education & Outreach

Workshops (standing solicitation)

Public Education & Outreach

FY01

Alaska Vessel Transponder System

Applied Technology

Community Education (standing solicitation)

Public Education & Outreach

Tide Height Data Collection

Applied Technology

Meteorolgical Data

Collection Applied Technology

Current Validation

Predictive Ecology

Hinchinbrook Entrance ADCP

Predictive Ecology

Graduate Fellowship (standing solicitation)

Public Education & Outreach

Workshops (standing solicitation)

Public Education & Outreach

Student Internships (standing solicitation)

Public Education & Outreach

NOTE: The year the BAA was announced is not always the year the project was funded. This table includes only projects funded through the BAA process. The OSRI staff provided the data for the table.

Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×

Award Category

Number Submitted

Number Funded

Small

4

1

Small

7

1

Small/Medium

8

0

Small

10

1

Small

7

1

Small

8

1

Small/Medium

14

3

Large

10

3

Small/Medium

0

0

Small

3

3

Small

2

2

Small

1

1

Medium

13

5

Small/Medium

5

4

Small

1

1

Medium

7

1

Large

7

1

Medium

2

1

Small

10

1

Large

1

1

Large

2

1

Small

3

2

Small

2

2

Medium

2

2

Small

2

1

Small

1

3

Medium

3

1

Medium

3

1

Medium

2

1

Medium

3

0

Small

3

2

Small/Medium

2

1

Small

1

1

Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×

TABLE 3-2 Amount of Funds Spent FY98-01 by Category

 

Amount (Percent of Total)

Activity

FY98

FY99

FY00

FY01

Applied Technology

$47,767 (24%)

$397,753 (39%)

$449,876 (36%)

$511,099 (34%)

Predictive Ecology

$29,879 (15%)

$451,337 (45%)

$520,472 (42%)

$580,000 (38%)

Education and Outreach

$97,045 (49%)

$63,069 (6%)

$175,018 (14%)

$206,169 (13%)

Technology Coordinator

$13,598 (7%)

$100,000 (10%)

$100,000 (8%)

$121,175 (8%)

Other

$8,943 (5%)

$0

$0

$100,000a (7%)

TOTAL

$197,232

$1,012,159

$1,245,366

$1,518,443

NOTE: The numbers were calculated from data provided by the OSRI, “OSRI Contracts Awarded 1997-Present,” and are based on amount spent.

aNational Academy of Sciences review.

TABLE 3-3 Breakdown by Year of Projects Funded as Small, Medium-Size or Large Awards

 

Total Dollar Amount (Number of Grants)

Type of Award

FY98

FY99

FY00

FY01a

Small

$124,634 (12)

$137,678 (12)

$91,329 (8)

$137,826 (9)

Medium-Size

$59,000 (2)

$374,750 (8)

$593,037 (12)

$659,442 (12)

Large

$0 (0)

$399,731 (3)

$461,000 (3)

$500,000 (4)

TOTAL

$183,634 (14)

$912,159 (23)

$1,145,366 (23)

$1,297,268 (25)

NOTE: Categories based on amount awarded. The technology coordinator position was not considered an award in this table. In calculating numbers for the table, awards of $25,000 or less were considered small, awards of $25,001 to $99,999 were considered medium-size, and awards greater than or equal to $100,000 were considered large.

aNational Academy of Sciences review was not included.

Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×

some criticism relative to its close links with the PWSSC. Specifically, concern has been raised whether PWSSC researchers have received a dispro-portionate amount of funding from the OSRI. A breakdown of support to PWSSC researchers from the OSRI program is summarized in Table 3-2. Data used to generate Table 3-2 were obtained from the tables “OSRI Contracts Awarded 1997-Present” provided by the OSRI.

In examining Table 3-4, about 30 percent of the total dollars awarded by the OSRI have been granted to PWSSC projects each year since FY98. The most significant support was to projects categorized under predictive ecology. OSRI records indicate that 70 percent of the funds spent in predictive ecology in FY00 and 66 percent in FY01 were awarded to PWSSC projects. In contrast, with the exception of FY99, little support has been given to PWSSC projects in the area of applied technology. Support of PWSSC projects in the area of education and outreach has steadily decreased (as a percent of total support) since FY98.

Another way to look at the fiscal relationship with respect to awards between the OSRI and the PWSSC is to look at the number of proposals awarded to PWSSC projects relative to the total funded (Tables 3-4 and 3-5). From 28 percent to 40 percent of the total projects funded were awarded to PWSSC projects. This result (about 30 percent to PWSSC each year) is in line with the total dollar amounts awarded (Table 3-3) and is not unreasonable.

TABLE 3-4 Amount of Total Funding by Category Awarded to Prince William Sound Science Center

 

Amount (Percent of Total Amount in Category from Table 3-1a)

Program

FY98

FY99

FY00

FY01

Applied Technology

$8,000 (17%)

$133,100 (33%)

$0 (0%)

$0 (0%)

Predictive Ecology

$0 (0%)

$212,627 (47%)

$365,215 (70%)

$380,215 (66%)

Education and Outreach

$34,883 (36%)

$18,348 (29%)

$35,091 (20%)

$28,000 (13%)

Other

$8,943 (100%)

 

TOTAL

$51,826 (28%)

$364,075 (40%)

$400,306 (35%)

$408,215 (29%)

aThe technology coordinator position was not included in the total for this table.

Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×

TABLE 3-5 Breakdown of Funding Awarded to Prince William Sound Science Center Projects by Category or Project and Funding Year

 

Number Awarded to PWSSC/Total number awarded (from Table 3-2)

Type of Award

FY98

FY99

FY00

FY01

Small

4/12

3/12

2/8

0/9

Medium

1/2

1/8

4/12

4/12

Large

0/0

2/3

1/3

1/4

TOTAL

5/14

6/23

7/23

5/25

NOTE: See Table 3-2 for total numbers of projects in each category.

PUBLICATIONS BY PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATORS

The committee evaluated a list of publications provided by OSRI (Appendix H). The publication list includes publications by principal investigators sponsored by OSRI and various workshop proceedings and other documents. The list includes 44 total publications described as published or “in press.” Of these 44 publications, 15 are journal articles, 15 are conference proceedings, 6 are abstracts, 4 are videos, and 5 are various maps, guides, or other reports. Of the journal articles, one by Thomas and Thorne (2001) was published in Nature. Four journal articles were published in 2000, one in 2001, and 10 are listed as in press. For overall publications, 5 were listed in 1998, 5 in 1999, 8 in 2000, 15 in 2001, 1 in 2002 (to date), and 10 in press (as of August 2002).

When first evaluating the list provided by OSRI in early 2002, the committee felt that the publication rate, particularly in refereed journals, was lower than it should be for a program the size of OSRI, because at that time it appeared that only 5 items had been published in peer-reviewed journals. Currently, however, 10 other journal articles are listed as in press, indicating that OSRI-sponsored research is starting to make its way into the refereed literature. The committee strongly encourages OSRI to emphasize the funding of projects that are likely to lead to information that can be published in refereed journals with broad distribution. OSRI should also take care to be sure that it is credited for all the publications and presentations that arise from the projects it supports (e.g., fellowships often result in theses and publications that often go unreported).

Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×
Page 30
Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×
Page 31
Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×
Page 32
Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×
Page 33
Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×
Page 34
Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×
Page 35
Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×
Page 36
Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×
Page 37
Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×
Page 38
Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×
Page 39
Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×
Page 40
Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×
Page 41
Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×
Page 42
Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×
Page 43
Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×
Page 44
Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×
Page 45
Suggested Citation:"3. Grant Award Policies and Procedures." National Research Council. 2003. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10643.
×
Page 46
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As a result of the 1989 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill in Prince William Sound, Congress passed the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90), and within that legislation, the Oil Spill Recovery Institute (OSRI) was born. This report assesses the strength and weaknesses of this research program, with emphasis on whether the activities supported to date address the OSRI mission, whether the processes used are sound, and whether the research and technology development projects are of high quality

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