This chapter examines the full development process for the Interagency Coordinating Committee on Oil Pollution Research (ICCOPR) 2022-2027 Oil Pollution Research and Technology Plan (R&T Plan), from establishing the framework, to information gathering and research prioritization, and finally to presentation of the results. The committee’s conclusions and recommendations are included at the end of the chapter and serve as a foundation for the discussions in Chapters 3 and 4.
ICCOPR defines the categorization framework for oil pollution research by providing a hierarchy to classify, discuss, and prioritize research (see Figure 2.1). The classification system contains four elements: (1) Research Classes, (2) Standing Research Areas (SRAs) with assigned Subcategories, (3) Research Needs for each Subcategory, and (4) Research Projects addressing specific Research Needs. The last two elements are expected to vary over time, reflecting advances in science and new or revised knowledge gaps.
The four Classes in the framework represent common groups of oil spill research: Prevention, Preparedness, Response, and Injury Assessment and Restoration (see Figure 2.2). All of these Classes are interconnected because research within each Class informs and supports research in other Classes. These Classes are defined in the 2022 R&T Plan as follows:
Prevention Class. The Prevention Class includes research that supports the development of practices and technologies designed to predict, reduce, or eliminate the likelihood of discharges, or, if a discharge occurs, minimize the volume discharged into the environment.
Preparedness Class. The Preparedness Class includes research that supports the activities, programs, and systems developed prior to an oil spill to improve the planning, decision-making, and management processes needed for responding to and recovering from oil spills.
Response Class. The Response Class includes research that supports techniques and technologies that address the immediate and short-term effects of an oil spill and encompasses all activities involved in containing, cleaning up, treating, and disposing of oil. The goal of response research is to (1) maintain the safety of human life, (2) stabilize a situation to preclude further damage, and (3) minimize adverse environmental and socioeconomic effects.
Injury Assessment and Restoration Class. The Injury Assessment and Restoration Class includes research that involves the collection and analysis of information to (1) evaluate the nature and extent of environmental, human health, and socioeconomic injuries resulting from
an incident; (2) determine the actions needed to restore natural resources and their services to pre-spill conditions; and (3) make the environment and public whole after the intervening losses.
These definitions do not specifically include “mitigation,” which is a term present in both the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The committee recognizes that several research priorities in different Classes directly address what could be considered “mitigation.” However, because the term “mitigation” may have a different meaning across different organizations with specific missions, an explicit inclusion of a definition of “mitigation” within the 2022 R&T Plan would be helpful to ensure that all elements in OPA 90 and the 2021 NDAA are addressed.
Each Class in the framework is divided into SRAs, which represent common research themes supporting their respective Class (see Figure 2.2). The 2022 R&T Plan contains 28 SRAs, including the 3 new SRAs required under the 2021 NDAA. A description of each SRA (many with assigned Subcategories) and its importance within the plan is provided; however, the descriptions vary in detail and clarity. In addition, the Subcategories are not defined. The SRAs and Subcategories are comparable to those in the 2015 R&T Plan, but with minor name changes.
The process for identifying and prioritizing the 2022 R&T Plan Research Needs (summarized in Figure 2.3) originated with the development of the 2015 R&T Plan via the ICCOPR R&T Workgroup. At the request of the R&T Workgroup, development of the 2022 R&T Plan mostly followed
the same methodology as the 2015 R&T Plan. The 2022 process included two additional elements not included in the 2015 process: (1) an evaluation of progress on Research Needs contained in the 2015 R&T Plan and (2) the use of a data call to aid in the evaluation of progress made toward 2015 Research Needs (in addition to identifying new Research Needs).
The first step of prioritizing Research Needs involved the identification of Research Needs through the analysis of multiple sources and an extensive literature review of more than 2,000 papers focusing on information generated between 2013 and 2020. These sources included outcomes from research (i.e., reports, peer-reviewed papers); workshops, conferences, technical and policy meetings; lessons learned from incidents and related case studies; and opinions and input shared by agencies or organizations. Data calls were also initiated by distributing announcements to seminal publications, through a network of researchers and organizations to promote inquiries, as well as through direct requests with experts. These data calls resulted in more than 60 submissions including more than 1,300 publications, with substantial overlap with the already undertaken literature review. These submissions included a selection of the appropriate SRA or Subcategory (if applicable) and an indication of whether the specific publication addressed Research Needs of the 2015 R&T Plan. In addition, researchers were given the opportunity to submit Research Needs through public listening sessions, with optional 5-minute presentations justifying the need for additional Research Needs. These sessions, which were attended by the R&T Workgroup, resulted in 63 submissions and 24 presentations encompassing an additional 214 Research Needs.
The information-gathering process did include outreach to Indigenous and underrepresented communities through communication with Regional Response Teams; however, little input was obtained. ICCOPR efforts to solicit input from Indigenous and underrepresented groups in identification of oil spill research priorities could be strengthened.
The process for identifying Research Needs also involved an evaluation of the priority Research Needs included in the 2015 R&T Plan that were used as a baseline for the 2022 R&T Plan (only unresolved priority Research Needs from the 2015 R&T Plan were repeated in the 2022 R&T Plan). This evaluation was undertaken by federal subject-matter experts (SMEs) selected by the R&T Workgroup. SMEs were provided with database(s) (status summary sheets) of research that occurred from 2015 to 2021, specific to their assigned SRA or Subcategory, and a rubric with which to uniformly score research progress. For a particular priority Research Need in the 2015 R&T Plan, if sufficient research has been completed, then the Research Need was removed from the list. Fourteen Research Needs were thus deemed completed (roughly 10% of the research priorities from the 2015 R&T Plan). This process resulted in carryover of 136 Research Needs from the 2015 R&T Plan into the 2022 R&T Plan.
More than 2,300 Research Needs were extracted from the information-gathering process. These Research Needs were consolidated to avoid duplicates. The resulting master list included 737 Research Needs, each assigned to the appropriate SRAs or Subcategories and used as the starting point for prioritization. The complete list of 737 Research Needs can be found in Appendix B of the 2022 R&T Plan.
Assessment of the Research Need Identification and Consolidation Process
The data collection process took place over 4 months during fall 2020. Given the amount of effort and information, it appears that additional time would have been needed for a more detailed collection and evaluation of sources. Some of the steps within the Research Needs identification process could take place on an annual and biennial basis and outside the plan review period. For example:
- The biennial reports to Congress that summarize progress made over a shorter time period could be leveraged to provide sources of relevant information for use in future data collection that supports R&T Plan revisions.
- Sustained funding of the process could lead to improvements in the identification of Research Needs and assessment of technological advances. With allocated funding:
- Certain data collection activities, such as identifying publications, collating Research Needs, and cataloging information, could be performed on a regular basis (annual and biennial), thus shortening the data collection period and possibly providing SMEs with more time to review and rank the identified Research Needs and to evaluate resolved priority Research Needs.
- A more systematic tracking of ongoing research programs (including international efforts) and new publications and sources would streamline the data collection process. ICCOPR could develop an evergreen database (see, e.g., the HERO1 tool developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [EPA]) of relevant research to expedite parts of the process (see Chapter 4 for a more detailed discussion).
- Similarly, strategies for undertaking systematic reviews could be applied to the data collection process. For example, EPA uses text-mining and machine learning software (SWIFT-Review [Howard et al., 2016]) and DistillerSR2) for chemical assessments that reduces the human screening burden and assists in problem formulation (applicable to ICCOPR challenges).
- Leveraging the expertise of ICCOPR member agency librarians within each agency could also facilitate the data collection process (i.e., provide partial annual funding to an agency librarian to support ICCOPR activity).
- The data collection process would benefit from established voluntary workgroups (aligned with SRAs) to gather information on advancements, research progress, new areas of research, and so forth. Outcomes could be reports that provide sources of information for both the biennial reporting to Congress and R&T Plan revisions. These workgroups could also provide a mechanism to ensure that federal and non-federal researchers and stakeholders are periodically encouraged to think systematically about the state of the science, coordinate and realign their activities, and be well prepared to provide input on Research Needs.
The Research Needs identified in Chapter 7 (“Significant Spills”) of the 2022 R&T Plan do not appear to be captured in the list of Research Needs provided in Appendix B (“List of Research Priorities [Raw Data] and Sources—2021 Database”) of the 2022 R&T Plan. Thus, it is not clear whether they were considered in the prioritization process, resulting in a loss of potential Research Needs. For example, although four Research Needs were identified during a 2018 ICCOPR meeting and are listed in the ex-USS Prinz Eugen Oil Recovery section (see Chapter 7, p. 172), none are included in the list of Research Needs found in Appendix B. Research Needs emerging from “Significant Spills” should be included in the master list of compiled Research Needs used for the prioritization process.
Across SRAs, many Research Need descriptions lack sufficient detail to be informative. In addition, the goals and objectives of the Research Needs are not included. Improved descriptions of both Subcategories and Research Needs would alleviate perceived ambiguities and overlap across Research Needs, as identified by the committee, while adding clarity and better aligning the intent of each Subcategory or Research Need. These improvements are also needed to properly combine
seemingly redundant or duplicative Subcategories or Research Needs during the consolidation process.
Representative examples of comprehensive and unambiguous descriptions of Research Needs are as follows:
Research Need: Study oil-specific biomarkers of exposure and injury, establish mechanistic linkages between biomarkers and effects, and develop guidelines for using transcriptional and other biomarker methods for a range of species, including timing for sample collection and use and interpretation of data.
Research Need: Identify human performance causal factors and develop innovative training and evaluation methods to reduce workplace errors and improve decision-making to prevent oil spills from occurring, including the use of artificial intelligence, readiness evaluations, gaming, hands-on exercises, and simulators.
Representative examples of ambiguous descriptions of Research Needs are as follows:
Research Need: Identify areas in petrophysical technologies that are unreliable and need improvement, and develop methods to improve those shortfalls.
Research Need: Develop methods, tools, and technologies customized to the specific characteristic of cold and harsh environment (e.g., oil trapped in or under ice, subsea spills).
Research Need: Continue to study the long-term ecosystem and habitat impacts of oil spills so that findings may be incorporated into predictive models for cascading effects.
That said, consolidation of Research Needs as described in Section 6.2.4 of the 2022 R&T Plan may have resulted in the grouping of too many research concepts into a single priority, which in turn may have complicated evaluation of the completion of Research Needs for future reports. For example, Research Need 30301A,3 “Develop/advance algorithms, sensors and platforms (e.g., UAS, ROV, AUV) to accurately characterize, quantify, and measure the surface oil state (i.e., emulsified or not), oil volume, and oil thickness, including under low visibility conditions (e.g., night, fog, and ice cover) in near real time, above and below surface,” appears to be a consolidation of concepts in the raw data, “Develop technologies to accurately characterize, quantify, and measure the surface oil state (i.e., emulsified or not), oil volume, and oil thickness in the lab and in the field above and below the surface” and “Advance and refine technologies that enable remote oil spill detection and mapping in low visibility conditions (e.g., night, fog, ice cover) to minimize false-positives and to accurately measure slick thickness.” This consolidation removes the emphasis from the need (to minimize false positives) and creates a relatively broad Research Need.
Another example where rewording may have unintentionally changed the intent of the recommendation can be found in Research Need 30200C, “Develop three-dimensional oil spill models to predict the effect of oil spills in the water column.” This priority can be mapped to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management 2021 report identified through the literature data call and is captured in the raw data as “Develop three-dimensional oil spill modeling to predict the impact of oil spills to
3 The Research Numbers correspond to the “Series” numbers included in Chapter 9 of the 2022-2027 R&T plan. The Series numbers correspond to Class, SRA, and Subcategory. For example, the Response Class is labeled Series 30000. Within the Response Class, SRA “Oil Spill Detection and Surveillance” is labeled 30300. Within that SRA, the Subcategory “Remote Detection” is labeled 30301. Then within the subcategory, priority Research Needs are assigned “A,” “B,” or “C.”
the subsurface.” Subsurface includes the water column and the ocean floor; the restatement negates impact to the ocean floor.
In some cases, rewording works well. For example, the recommendation “Develop skimmers for very low sulfur fuel oil responses” in the raw data became Research Need 30401C, “Develop skimmers for emerging oils (e.g., very low sulfur fuel oil, dielectric fluids).” Here, the original intent is not lost.
Consolidating multiple Research Needs into a single priority may result in loss of integrity to the original identified need and complicate understanding of that origin. For example, “Develop surrogates for different types of oil to be used for training and for research and development testing” and “Develop a surrogate or simulant that could be permitted for release offshore to allow oil containment booms to be field tested for failure mechanisms such as entrainment and drainage” were consolidated into Research Need 30402B, “Develop surrogates for different types of oil for training, research, development, and testing of oil spill recovery equipment.” The important specificity of the need for a product that can be permitted for field testing is lost in the final priority.
Some Research Needs appear to be placed in the incorrect Subcategory. For example, Research Need 30203C (Subcategory: Transport Models), “Evaluate the structure of the near-surface velocity profile and the related dynamics for simulating surface oil transport,” is related to basic oceanographic research. The purpose of the need is to improve transport models; however, Oceanographic Models would be the more appropriate subcategory. If more consistently worded, Research Needs could be more accurately placed and the number of overlapping research priorities could be reduced. For example, Research Need 30203C (in Subcategory: Transport Models) could be combined with 30204C (in Subcategory: Oceanographic Models), “Evaluate the near-surface ocean velocity structure and interfacial stresses between air, oil and water under different wind, wave and current conditions to improve oil spill models.”
Another example can be found in Research Need 30204A, “Develop and improve nonproprietary algorithms for oil spill models based on the current state of science”; this priority belongs under the Transport Models (not the Oceanographic Models) Subcategory. In addition, Research Need 30205A (Subcategory: Emerging Crude) does not appear in the raw data in the Emerging Crude Subcategory but does appear in Subcategory 40002 (Toxicological and Sub-Lethal Impacts) and is, in fact, Research Need 40002C.
Clear descriptions of the SRAs and Research Needs would also enhance plan implementation in that scientists and engineers could identify and design research projects that address or contribute to specific Research Needs.
Assessment of Outstanding Research Needs from the 2015 R&T Plan
The 2022 R&T Plan development process resulted in the determination that 14 Research Needs from the 2015 R&T Plan were “completed.”4 However, the list of completed Research Needs lacks sufficient detail about the resolution of that research. The plan would be enhanced by inclusion of this information in an appendix, as well as annotation of the Research Needs carried over from previous R&T Plans in Chapter 9 and Appendix B.
An effort was made to engage SMEs who contributed to the 2015 R&T Plan in the evaluation of progress on past Research Needs for the 2022 R&T Plan to ensure consistency. The committee noted that many of the priority Research Needs have already been partially or substantially addressed by government, academic, industry, or other parties. Yet, the approach lacks a mechanism to indicate partial completion of Research Needs. For example, regarding Series 20001 (Habitat and Species Baselines), the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has engaged in work to advance this
4 See Table 6-2 in the 2022-2027 R&D Plan.
topic, but the 2022 R&T Plan does not specify the amount of work that remains. This observation emphasizes the need to improve the process used to identify Research Needs and to ensure that priority Research Needs reflect true data and information needs within each SRA or Subcategory.
The use of volunteer workgroups, as described in the previous section, could be used to augment the pool of SMEs judging progress on past Research Needs (and thus reduce the workload and associated fatigue for the SMEs).
The prioritization of Research Needs relied heavily on responses of SMEs to survey questions. These questions were based on those included in the 2015 R&T Plan and were modified (e.g., questions regarding funding were removed5) by University of New Hampshire survey experts, working in conjunction with the R&T Workgroup. SMEs with expertise in each SRA or Subcategory, and primarily from the federal government, were identified and recommended by the R&T Workgroup. In some instances, SMEs from state agencies, academia, or industry were also included in the prioritization process, but they did not exceed 40% of all SMEs within the assigned SRA or Subcategory. Preference for federal government SMEs over nongovernment SMEs is justified because they provide the perspective about Research Needs that is applicable to their own agencies and the government.
In total, 58 surveys, one for each SRA or Subcategory, were developed and administered to each SME. These surveys included criteria to establish the relevance of each Research Need in three domains: importance, complexity of research question, and timeliness. The SME responded using a sliding scale with an associated value. SMEs were also asked to provide input on additional Research Needs. Survey questions and an example scale are shown in Figure 2.4.
The survey was administered to 310 SMEs with the intent of gathering responses from at least four SMEs in each of the SRAs and Subcategories. However, responses were received from 212 SMEs (68% response rate), indicating that in some instances only 2 SMEs evaluated priority Research Needs for their respective SRAs and Subcategories. Of note, a higher response rate (85%) was obtained in the survey administered to prioritize the 2015 R&T Plan Research Needs. Furthermore, the committee’s public information-gathering sessions revealed that some survey recipients were unaware of the context, purpose, and importance of the survey, which affected the quality of their response or led to their nonresponse. Clear articulation of purpose, context, and importance of the data calls is necessary to solicit responses appropriate for informing the development of the R&T Plan.
The SME responses were used to assess the relevance of the Research Need. The R&T Workgroup assigned higher weights to the importance domain (Question 1; 60% weighting), followed by the basic versus applied research domain (Question 2; 30% weighting), and then the timeliness domain (Question 3; 10% weighting). Both raw and weighted mean and standard deviations for each Research Need were considered during prioritization.
The prioritization of the top three recommended Research Needs for each SRA and Subcategory involved careful deliberations within the R&T Workgroup. The iterative process started with the survey results and the integration of non-duplicative Research Needs identified by the SMEs into the appropriate SRA or Subcategory. The Research Needs were then ranked based on the expert opinions of the R&T Workgroup members. The R&T Workgroup also developed final descriptions for each priority Research Need and crafted language to articulate what the Research Need encompassed and how it addressed the federal perspectives. Upon incorporation of ICCOPR
5 Questions regarding funding in the survey of the 2015 R&T Plan were deemed irrelevant because responses may have lacked context and therefore would have been meaningless.
member feedback on the list of priority Research Needs, and following extensive discussions (i.e., commenting and dissenting), the final list of 171 priority Research Needs was shared with and approved by the R&T Workgroup and ICCOPR’s full membership.
Assessment of Research Need Prioritization Process
Prioritization of Research Needs is one of the most important aspects of this overall effort, yet the 2022 R&T Plan does not describe this process as fully as the others—making it difficult to assess. Giving pause is the fact that, in many cases, the determination of the top three priority Research Needs within each SRA or Subcategory was directly based on SME survey results. For example, of the 33 priority Research Needs listed under the Class of Injury Assessment and Restoration, 13 were based on SME evaluations and 3 were based on public listening sessions, indicating that less than half of all Research Needs were identified through literature reviews and data calls. This outcome could be potentially problematic because it suggests the following:
- prioritization may be inconsistently applied across Research Needs regardless of who and/or what process identified the Research Need;
- Research Needs identified by SMEs are assigned a higher weight, resulting in bias or an unbalanced process;
- the process for identifying Research Needs through literature reviews and data calls may omit key pieces of information; and
- the expertise within the team collecting and consolidating the data (e.g., the lack of expertise in human health and socioeconomics) is not sufficiently balanced.
Development and use of a standard and more transparent approach for evaluating Research Needs, regardless of their source, would ensure consistency in the prioritization process. Specific concerns and suggestions on the prioritization process include the following:
- Inclusion of Research Need ranking and description of any consolidation of Research Needs would increase transparency of the prioritization process.
- The rationale for selecting the top three priority Research Needs was not included. Some Research Needs may be more significant in terms of benefits provided, potential reduction in oil spill effects, and higher probability of use. A prioritization scheme that accounts for these factors would help to justify priority. Additional context about the challenges to prioritization and ranking would inform understanding of the prioritization, specifically as related to a specific member agency’s mission and goals. Dialogue among agencies was obviously important during internal deliberations but not necessarily apparent based on the current R&T Plan content.
- A breakdown of the number of SMEs assigned to each SRA and Subcategory who responded to the survey would illuminate areas in which additional SMEs should be engaged for future revisions. The concern is that two SMEs may not provide a complete assessment of priority Research Needs for each SRA or Subcategory. In addition, inconsistent and potentially biased scoring may result when SMEs are asked to identify Research Needs in parallel with the ranking process. A larger pool of SMEs or a higher SME survey response rate will address concerns such as inherent bias and reviewer fatigue.
- Appendix B of the 2022 R&T Plan does not list all of the proposed Research Needs considered by the SMEs or the R&T Workgroup. Furthermore, as mentioned in the previous section, whether the Research Needs identified in Section 7.4, “Noteworthy Oil Spills,” were included in the evaluation and scoring process is unclear, because they are not listed in Appendix B.
- Non-priority Research Needs (77% of the initial 737 Research Needs) also merit consideration because they reflect the priorities set by the larger community (i.e., SME-based rankings; SME priorities), which is not clearly stated in the 2022 R&T Plan.
- Although the research Class of Injury Assessment and Restoration includes topics on human health and socioeconomic impacts resulting from an oil spill incident, the existing ICCOPR representation does not include social scientists and public health experts, who are necessary for evaluating the importance of these Research Needs.
The 6-year planning cycle (2022-2027) of the 2022 R&T Plan was set forth in the 2015 R&T Plan. This cycle is based on the rationale that 6 years is a sensible amount of time to plan the research (2 years), conduct and complete the research (2 years), and incorporate findings into R&T Plan revisions (2 years). This cycle is viewed as being sufficient to make advancements on Research Needs, and it further aligns with the scheduling of the biennial reporting of ICCOPR’s progress to Congress. However, given the amount of effort required for these activities (e.g., data collection, evaluation of resolved Research Needs, evaluation and prioritization), as stated throughout this report, data source identification should be an ongoing activity and not limited to the last 2 years of the planning cycle (see Chapter 4 for greater detail). Furthermore, there may be a lag time between public research and development outcomes and their commercialization in the form of product and process innovation. In particular, new technological developments can take several years from proof of concept to application. An ongoing update of research needed and progress made would, again, lead to a more robust plan.
The 2022 R&T Plan includes two parts. Part One (Oil Pollution Research) provides the context and justification behind the need for oil pollution research; identifies and describes more than 100 federal and non-federal entities (e.g., state, industry, tribal, independent organizations, academia, and international organizations) that have traditionally conducted the research; and presents the framework and structure for identifying and categorizing the priority Research Needs. Part Two (Establishing Research Priorities) details the process used to identify Research Needs and priorities; provides an assessment of oil spill technologies and noteworthy oil spill events; and presents the current state of oil pollution knowledge. During plan development, drafts of individual chapters underwent an iterative process with revisions incorporated through a tiered review. Prior to final approval, the plan was reviewed by the ICCOPR executive director and vice chair, the R&T Workgroup, and ICCOPR.
Because of expected changes in the intended audience (i.e., new Congress members and support staff), the format of Part One of the R&T Plan—describing the need for oil pollution research, research parties involved, and the ICCOPR Oil Pollution Research Categorization Framework—has remained relatively static with the exception of minor updates based on changes that occurred between revisions. This part of the R&T Plan provides a comprehensive overview of organizations associated with oil pollution research and technology. Part One also provides a valuable source of information beyond ICCOPR because it contains high-level summaries of information (e.g., background statistics, history of spills in the United States, high-risk spill sources, oil transportation and trends) relevant to all aspects of oil spill research. In contrast, Part Two is expected to change significantly as research and the state of knowledge advance, and as priority Research Needs change or are successfully addressed. One substantial change to Part Two in the 2022 R&T Plan was the addition of the Assessment of Oil Spill Technologies, as required by the 2021 NDAA (see Box 1.2).
Assessment of R&T Plan Structure
The report contains useful information and could be a resource for various stakeholders with different interests. After reviewing the report and discussing the chapters, the committee determined that the readability, utility, and purpose of the plan could be improved by adjusting the flow. The following outline would focus the report on the objectives of the R&T Plan and move background information into the appendixes. Justification for the proposed outline is provided in the following text.
Proposed Outline for Future R&T Plans:
Part I: Oil Pollution Research
- 2022 R&T Plan Chapter 1: The Need for Oil Pollution Research
- 2022 R&T Plan Chapter 4: Structuring Oil Pollution Research
Part II: Establishing Research Priorities
- 2022 R&T Plan Chapter 8: Current State of Oil Pollution Research
- 2022 R&T Plan Chapter 7: Noteworthy Oil Spills
- 2022 R&T Plan Chapter 7: Assessment of Oil Spill Technologies
- 2022 R&T Plan Chapter 5: Knowledge Transfer and Advancement
- 2022 R&T Plan Chapter 6: Oil Pollution Research Needs Identification and Prioritization Process
- 2022 R&T Plan Chapter 9: Oil Spill Research and Technology Priority Research Needs
Part 1 of the suggested outline presents information directly relevant to understanding the remainder of the report. Chapter 1 establishes the importance of oil pollution research, and Chapter 2 explains the process and structure of the R&T Plan. If a reader desires additional background information, they may be directed to the appendixes.
Part 2 is focused on establishing the research priorities and, therefore, begins with the current state of oil pollution research (Chapter 4). Chapter 5 brings forward the lessons learned from noteworthy oil spills that inform Research Needs in the different SRAs. Chapter 6 focuses on oil spill technologies and factors affecting research program success. This chapter should bring the state of the art in oil spill response technologies, based on input from an expert workgroup, and would benefit from reordering to a logical order of technologies (i.e., following the four Classes), rather than at random. Chapter 7 then discusses knowledge transfer and advancement of oil pollution research. Chapter 8 explains the processes for identifying, compiling, and prioritizing the Research Needs. The proposed report structure concludes with a final chapter (Chapter 9) presenting the priority Research Needs.
To aid readers seeking more detailed information, the R&T Plan could provide full citations and, when possible, links to the websites for the various programs described throughout.
The committee’s conclusions and recommendation on the R&T Plan development process are included here for consideration by the ICCOPR. The details of the committee’s assessment and suggestions (including examples) of the structure of the plan, information-gathering process, identification of outstanding Research Needs, and Research Need evaluation and prioritization can be found within the chapter.
Conclusion: Improvement to R&T Plan development process. Streamlining and optimizing the R&T Plan development process (including identification of Research Needs, documentation of research progress, and prioritization of research) would result in a more complete, transparent, and community-driven research agenda.
- The amount of time allocated to develop the R&T Plan, from identification and prioritization of Research Needs to publishing the written product, is not sufficient.
- Efforts to include environmental and cultural concerns of Indigenous groups and the potential application of their traditional knowledge in the R&T Plan could be strengthened.
- Although the research Class of Injury Assessment and Restoration includes topics on human health and socioeconomic impacts resulting from an oil spill incident, the existing ICCOPR representation does not include social scientists and public health experts, who are necessary for evaluating the importance of these Research Needs.
- Clear articulation of the purpose, context, and importance of the data calls is necessary to solicit responses appropriate for informing the development of the R&T Plan.
- The prioritization process is not sufficiently described within the R&T Plan.
Recommendation 1: The ICCOPR R&T Plan development process should be improved and streamlined. A more continuous process for identification of Research Needs and documentation of research progress would result in a more complete, transparent, and community-driven research agenda. In addition:
- Expertise of individuals participating in the information-gathering process should be expanded to include Indigenous and other underrepresented communities that could be affected by oil pollution, as well as a wide range of practitioners (i.e., operational spill responders; professionals with expertise in restoration, human health, and socioeconomics; policy makers).
- The R&T Plan Workgroup should ensure that all Research Needs identified during the information-gathering process are considered in the prioritization process.
- The R&T Plan Workgroup, or any group prioritizing the Research Needs, should include social scientists and public health experts to ensure that economic-, social-, and health-related research gaps are sufficiently covered in future R&T plans.
- A more transparent process for prioritization of Research Needs should be developed. Prioritization would benefit from a risk-based approach that weights end-user potential and likelihood to incorporate research findings into practice, therefore improving oil spill prevention, preparedness, response, and injury assessment and restoration.
Conclusion: Increasing Utility of the R&T Plan. The following revisions to the R&T Plan text would improve clarity and readability:
- More clearly define and balance the descriptions of each SRA and Research Need to enable appropriate sorting and consolidation of Research Needs, as well as to more clearly communicate the research needed to those interested in progressing the research.
- Restructure the R&T Plan to move extensive background information to appendixes and to flow more logically from identification to prioritization of Research Needs.
- Provide full citation and, when possible, links to the website for the oil pollution research programs and literature described within the R&T Plan.
- Define the term “mitigation,” based on ICCOPR objectives.
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