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Opinion: The oil's stain on science

An ecosystem biologist discusses how the effort to assess the oil spill's damage is stifling independent research

Linda Hooper-Bui
Functioning as an independent researcher in and around the Gulf of Mexico these days is no simple task. I study insect and plant communities in near-shore habitats fringing the Gulf, and my work has gotten measurably harder in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. It's not hazardous conditions associated with oil and dispersants that are hampering our scientific efforts. Rather, it's the confidentiality agreements that come with signing up to work on large research projects shepherded by government entities and BP and the limited access to coastal areas if you're not part of those projects that are stifling the public dissemination of data detailing the environmental impact of the catastrophe.
Image: National Oceanographic and
Atmospheric Administration
Some Gulf scientists have already been snatched up by corporate consulting companies with offers of $250/hour. Others are badgered for their data by governmental agencies. Some of us desire to conduct our work...
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