The Gulf Oil Spill 2 Years later

       My ichthyology professor, last week, asked us to read articles concerning the newly discovered effects of the BP Oil Spill  over the weekend. Being the over eager student that I am I dove into the subject matter. However I was quickly sidetracked by other articles, studying for finals and cooking for the week ahead. So today I open up my google reader and return to the subject. I happened upon an article discussing the differing approaches taken by McNutt (USGS) and Lubchenco (NOAA) in the weeks and months during attempts at mitigation.
The issue that struck me, and I have read this in other places, was the idea that it is a necessity for peer review of the research before findings could be provided to the government or to the public. The article provides the following quote: “We rightfully got a lot of grief from the academic community,” McNutt said during a recent interview. “But we had no option to get it peer-reviewed! If there was an action to get it quickly turned around and reviewed, we would’ve loved to have taken it.”
       I stopped reading at this point and realized that 23 years as a police officer made me rebel from this attitude. Just make a decision, take action! A visceral reaction on my part but still, I can’t help it. I’ve been a student now for a couple of years and understand the importance of peer review but not for something this drastic. The BP oil spill required action not peer review. I’m not going to monday-morning-quarterback any of the actions taken by specific people but we as a scientific community should assess honestly what was done, what wasn’t done that should have been, and what to do next time.  This is something that we do in police work after every crisis situation. There will be a next time. Drilling continues. The scientific community should be working on a game plan for what to do, how to jump over peer review in situations such as a massive oil spill, and allow the experts to make decisions on the fly. 

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