After Outcry, Oil Data Inches Into the Open

Water_testing_in_the_Gulf_in_response_to_the_BP_oil_spill_(4616033888)

20 August 2010

Fisheries scientist James Cowan wasn’t put off when a private consulting firm contacted him about helping BP with its oil spill research–indeed, he welcomed the opportunity. “I didn’t want [BP] to take samples that give them the wrong information, so I’d just as soon help,” says Cowan, a professor at Louisiana State University (LSU), Baton Rouge… But Cowan was also uneasy about the consulting contract the firm offered him, which would have banned him from discussing or publishing any data collected on their dime for up to 3 years.

In the wake of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP rushed to contract scientists to help with their side of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), the legal process of collecting evidence on the extent of the oil’s impact. But after scientists denounced the restrictive nature of these contracts, BP changed their approach. I investigated the story for Science.

Keep reading at Science (subscription required).

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(Image credit: Eric Vance, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

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