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Metcalf Institute wins NSF grant to help journalism and communication of oil spill research

NARRAGANSETT, R.I. August 30, 2010 The Metcalf Institute for Marine & Environmental Reporting at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography has been awarded a one-year National Science Foundation (NSF) RAPID Response grant through the Foundation's office of Informal Science Education.

The $199,909 NSF grant, Improving Communication of Oil Spill Research, will support three integrated Metcalf Institute programs that will bring science journalists, communications professionals, and informal science educators together with research scientists who are currently studying the Deepwater Horizon oilrig failure and its impacts on the Gulf of Mexico.

"We are very excited to improve public understanding of the science behind the oil spill through this new project," said Sunshine Menezes, executive director of Metcalf Institute. "This NSF grant will allow us to respond to the urgent need for science training that will equip journalists and science communicators with the information and skills needed to clearly and accurately relay the latest research on the oil spill's impacts."

Metcalf Institute provides science immersion programs designed to help reporters and editors better understand environmental science research methods, scientific ethics, and the peer-review process, all in the context of specific environmental topics. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill has grabbed the attention of the public and requires thoughtful and probing news coverage. This project will expand environmental reporting skills of participating journalists and strengthen the communication skills of participating scientists and informal science educators.

The grant will support scientists' participation in the October 2010 annual conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists to clarify the early scientific findings about the oil spill's impacts; an April 2011 seminar in Louisiana for Gulf of Mexico-based journalists and informal science educators co-hosted by Louisiana State University and Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium; and Metcalf Institute's June 2011 Annual Science Immersion Workshop and Public Lecture Series. Each stage of the year-long project will focus on the emerging science of the oil spill and will feature researchers who are actively working to understand the immediate and long-term impacts of the spill.

This NSF grant to Metcalf Institute is one of over 100 Gulf oil spill-related RAPID Response Awards made by the federal agency since June 2010, and one of only two such grants awarded to University of Rhode Island researchers. NSF RAPID grants, which support research in engineering and the natural and social sciences, are used to provide a quick response to unanticipated events such as natural or anthropogenic disasters.

The mission of the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting is to promote clear and accurate reporting of scientific news and environmental issues; to strengthen understanding and working relationships between members of the scientific community and members of the news media; and to provide opportunities for beginning journalists to learn, on both a formal and an informal level, how to improve their skills in marine and environmental reporting.


Contact: Kat Anderson
University of Rhode Island

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