NPR has a good rundown on what one interviewee calls the “Fog of Research,” with respect to studying the effects of the BP oil leak. Basically, there are a lot of studies going on, but they are not well-coordinated. This state of affairs could lead to duplication of effort and important issues being missed, among other problems.
There’s also the issue that much of the research results, for now, is not available to the public, because the data “may involve litigation.” This is ridiculous, reflective of the unfortunate fact that in many cases attorneys are calling the shots, rather than those who need to know what is going on as soon as possible before important things are missed.
What is needed is a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) here. The basic idea is to get an appropriate group of stakeholders and experts together to work out research objectives for evaluating what’s going on in the Gulf. The approach would, of necessity, be an iterative one, one reason for this being that the research objectives must conform with resources available for carrying out the accompanying tasks. It sure would be fun to work on an SEA for this.