Gulf states updates, resources, and events from RAND

RAND Gulf States Policy Institute Newsletter

June 2015

A periodic report on the activities of the RAND Gulf States Policy Institute

From the Director

Gary Cecchine

We recently observed the five-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Like many Gulf States residents, I want to fully understand how the spill affected the people and environment in the region. This information will help our community know where remedial efforts are most needed and how we can be more resilient in the future.

With this in mind, I am pleased to tell you all that RAND is leading the Consortium for Resilient Gulf Communities (CRGC), a three-year grant from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI). Along with esteemed regional partners from Louisiana State University, Tulane University, the University of South Alabama and the Louisiana Public Health Institute, we are assessing and addressing the public health, social, and economic impacts of the 2010 oil spill. Our efforts will be used to understand the effects and to develop strategic plans to prevent and, if necessary, respond to similar disasters that may occur in coming years.

In this issue of the newsletter, we feature an interview with my colleague Dr. Melissa Finucane, director of the Consortium and expert in understanding the human dimensions of environmental and health risks of coastal communities. Melissa gives insight into Consortium goals and the work ahead, as well as the likelihood of future disasters.

As ever, you may reach out to me directly if you have any questions or want more information.

All the best,

Gary Cecchine, Ph.D.
Director of Research, RAND Gulf States Policy Institute


Cleaning up oil spill

Five years after the DH oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, numerous critical questions remain. Among these:
What are the long-term effects on people and what if something like this happened again?

The Consortium for Resilient Gulf Communities (CRGC) is taking steps to answer these questions by beginning to assess the health, social, and economic impacts of the 2010 oil spill on the region. The findings will be used to develop tools and recommendations for Gulf States communities to build their resilience in dealing with the long-term effects of the DH disaster as well as possible future catastrophes related to oil and hydrocarbon spills.

Melissa Finucane

The RAND Gulf Coast States Policy Institute will of course keep you updated as to findings and developments related to this important project.

In the meantime, we offer a few initial insights into the Consortium's goals by speaking with its director, Dr. Melissa Finucane:

1.  It's 2015, five years after the fact. What do we know about the effects of the oil spill accident—and what don't we know?

So far and with good reason, most scientific research has focused on the immediate and long-term damage to the ecosystem. For example, there are numerous studies on the ways that the emulsifiers and dispersants affect the region's deep-sea and on-shore environments.

What we know less about is the effect that accident has had on people—specifically, Gulf Coast residents' health and wellbeing, as well as the economy.

2.  Could people feel negative effects for decades like the environment?

This is where our work comes in. Right now there are no clear-cut answers. But we do know that the rate at which communities recover following a disaster depends a lot on their resiliency—that is, the social and economic systems in place before and after a disaster. We want to help the region better understand the human toll of the oil spill, and then build ways to improve their resiliency to its multiple stressors, brought on by the 2010 accident, as well as any similar accidents that could happen in the future.

3.  How does the Consortium have the ability to consider such a comprehensive view of the problem?

The Consortium can look at the big picture because each partner brings something unique and important to the table. Together, the team is approaching resilience to oil and hydrocarbon spills through multiple, integrated lenses; these include public health, psychiatry, psychology, sociology, economics, political science, implementation science, computer science, risk analysis, disaster resilience, ecology, decision science, and program evaluation. The study, as well as the final recommendations and tools, will be based on quantitative and qualitative data and will join researchers and communities via a use-inspired, problem-focused, and iterative approach. We believe that this approach will allow us to both understand and address resiliency in innovative new ways.

4.  Could something like the DH oil spill happen again?

Of course. It's just a matter of when and where. Deepwater drilling is still happening elsewhere around the world, including off the coasts of Florida, Alaska, and Cuba. Since the DH oil spill there have been a lot of panels, whitepapers, recommendations, reports, and regulatory actions regarding deepwater drilling safety. As is often the case with large, dramatic, fatal, and very visual and horrific events, there is a lot of attention immediately after the disaster. Then action is hard to sustain and interest wanes. The main challenge is instilling a long-term culture of safety and resiliency at many levels. This is part of the challenge we are taking on as we work with our partners to understand the scope of the human effects here in the Gulf Region. Ultimately, our goal is to help develop the tools and systems needed to face disaster effectively and take less human toll on the region in the future.


RAND Gulf States is an integral part of the RAND Corporation and its more than 1,200 researchers working around the world on many topics that are relevant to our Gulf States community. Below is a sample of recent research that may be of interest to you:

Police-Community Relations in a New Era

Police-community relations

Communities rely on police departments to "protect and serve." Police, in turn, rely on community support and cooperation. As current headlines remind us, however, the relationship is not always harmonious.

RAND researchers have examined the relationships between law enforcement agencies and their communities both in the U.S. and abroad. Our work in this area has been brought together in one place.

Of special interest may be a recent conversation between Pittsburgh Chief of Police Cameron McLay, Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle and RAND's director of Safety and Justice, Dr. Brian Jackson, concerning the critical relationship between police and the public and how trust between the two is critical to the health of American democracy. Dr. Jackson discusses how police departments and the public can begin to develop mutual trust in a separate publication.

About Us

The RAND Gulf States Policy Institute provides objective analysis to federal, state, and local leaders in support of evidence-based policymaking and the well-being of individuals throughout the U.S. Gulf States region.

We invite your suggestions for researchers, projects, centers, and funding or collaboration opportunities to highlight in future issues. Write to director Gary Cecchine at


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