Fall/Winter 2015 Vol. 15 Number 2

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Gulf Research Program Awards First Fellowships and Grants

As part of its initial suite of activities, the Gulf Research Program last summer announced the recipients of its first early-career research and science policy fellowships and exploratory research grants. Both sets of competitive awards support the program's 30-year mission to enhance oil system safety and the protection of human health and the environment in the Gulf of Mexico and U.S. outer continental shelf regions.

The early-career research fellowships recognized eight individuals at the critical pre-tenure phase of their careers who demonstrated exceptional leadership, past performance, and potential to make future contributions to improving oil system safety, human health, or the environment in the Gulf Region. Each fellow was awarded $76,000 in the form of a two-year grant, and will receive mentorship from a senior faculty member at their home institution as well as from a senior expert in their field.

Four science policy fellows were selected to spend one year on the staff of a state environmental agency or regional office of a federal agency in the Gulf region, with a focus on leadership development and capacity building at the science-policy interface. The fellows receive a stipend of $45,000 for current students or $55,000 for graduates, as well as mentorship by a professional at their host office.

The program also awarded 12 exploratory research grants, totaling more than $1.5 million, intended to catalyze innovative thinking in one of two areas: (1) how to effectively educate and train offshore oil and gas and health professionals and (2) how to improve understanding of links between human well-being and ecosystem services related to oil and gas production.

These one-year grants provide seed money for research in its early conceptual phase, for activities that can accelerate concept to testing, or for development of novel approaches. They also could support the application of new expertise or engagement of non-traditional disciplinary or interdisciplinary perspectives.

The program also announced the recipients of its final 2015 funding activity, data-synthesis grants, at the end of the year. These two-year awards -- totaling more than $4.4 million -- are designed to encourage activities that synthesize existing data in ways that inform efforts to restore and maintain the Gulf of Mexico's ecosystem services or that enhance understanding of the deep Gulf or its physical and biological connection to coastal communities.

-- Lauren Rugani & Molly Galvin

National Academy of Medicine Established

Since its inception in 1970, the Institute of Medicine has operated under the congressional charter of the National Academy of Sciences as both an honorific membership society and a research organization that conducts studies on health and medicine and related policy issues. On July 1, 2015, the National Academy of Medicine was established, and it assumed the membership and honorific functions formerly administered by the IOM, inheriting more than 1,900 current elected and foreign members of the Institute. This change was part of a broader internal reorganization to more effectively integrate the work of the Academies.

In addition to its honorific functions, NAM administers fellowships, scholarships, and awards; hosts workshops, expert meetings, and symposia; and conducts programs to enrich the broader work of the entire institution. The NAM also publishes Perspectives, an expert commentary and discussion paper series.

At the NAM's annual meeting in October, Victor J. Dzau, president of the newly minted Academy, said the creation of the National Academy of Medicine is especially timely because of the immense challenges shaping today's landscape -- increasing burden of noncommunicable diseases, aging, rising health care costs, and persistent health inequalities. "We are in the perfect position to steer this rapidly evolving health environment toward progress on many fronts. The NAM's independent status, with [its] unique interface with academia, government, industry and civil society, provide the platform and resources to impact health, both immediately and in the long run, in our own nation and beyond."

The studies and reports on health and medicine have continued uninterrupted as activities of the Institute of Medicine, which became one of six program units now operating under the umbrella of the three integrated Academies. Studies, reports, and activities that are produced by any of the Academies' six program units will be referenced as products of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

"The establishment of the National Academy of Medicine is a significant milestone in our history," said NAS President Ralph J. Cicerone. "It is an acknowledgement of the importance of medicine and related health sciences to today's global research enterprise. It will also better align us to take a more integrated, multidisciplinary approach to our work, reflecting how science is best done today."

-- Jennifer Walsh

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