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Safer Offshore Energy Systems Grants 4 – Request for Applications (Closed)

Safer Offshore Energy Systems Grants 4 Composite

Topic: Advancing Safety Culture in the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry

Key Dates and Information

Total funding available: $10 million
Award duration: Up to 36 months

All application materials must be submitted via the Gulf Research Program's online application system.

Letter of Intent (LOI)
An LOI is required for this funding opportunity.
December 12, 2018: RFA announced
December 19, 2018: Online LOI submission opens
February 13, 2019, 5:00pm ET: LOI due (CLOSED)

Full Proposal
February 14, 2019: Online full proposal submission opens (ONLY open to applicants who submitted an LOI)
May 1, 2019, 5:00pm ET: Full proposal due (CLOSED)

Award Selection and Notification
Fall 2019

About the Gulf Research Program
The Gulf Research Program is an independent, science-based program founded in 2013 as part of legal settlements with the companies involved in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. It seeks to enhance offshore energy system safety and protect human health and the environment by catalyzing advances in science, practice, and capacity to generate long-term benefits for the Gulf of Mexico region and the nation. Learn more.

Frequently Asked Questions: Grants
PDF (download/view all information about this funding opportunity as a PDF)

RFA Version Information and Revision Notes:
  • Version 1.3 (Issued 03/04/19): Eligibility criteria amended.
  • Version 1.2 (Issued 12/31/18): Description of funding priority “Human-Systems Integration” corrected within PDF version of RFA.
  • Version 1.1 (Issued 12/19/18): Due date for full proposal submission extended to May 1, 2019.

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The Gulf Research Program seeks to support research that will advance understanding and facilitate improvement of safety culture in the offshore oil and gas industry.


In 2018, the National Academies’ Gulf Research Program sponsored two workshops to identify specific and implementable research areas to improve process safety within the offshore oil and gas industry. “The Human Factors of Process Safety and Worker Empowerment in the Offshore Oil Industry” workshop was organized to examine a holistic approach to synthesizing scientific knowledge related to the role of the worker in the context of the environmental (organizational, social, and physical) structure of offshore oil operations. The workshop explored best practices and lessons learned from other high-risk, high-reliability industries for the benefit of enhancing safety in the offshore oil industry. “SPE Summit: Safer Offshore Energy Systems” was conceived to identify research gaps in offshore operations from exploration through production that, if filled, could result in safer offshore development. Proceedings of both workshops were used to identify and prioritize areas of research for the Safer Offshore Energy Systems Grants 4 competition.

Funding Priorities

We seek proposals for research and/or design of pilot projects to understand and improve offshore safety culture. In the case of pilot projects, the intent of this solicitation is to support the background work needed to develop and design a pilot program; future implementation would involve the use of funding other than that sought under this solicitation. The Gulf Research Program is specifically interested in the four areas below; however, our interest is not limited to these areas only and we also welcome proposals for other areas of research that could lead to improved understanding of safety culture within the context of offshore oil and gas operations.
  • Global Database of Incident and Safety Data: Data that can be and are used to measure offshore safety are being collected worldwide by various entities (e.g., International Association of Drilling Contractors, Center for Offshore Safety, SafeOCS International Association of Oil & Gas Producers, SINTEF, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, and many others). However, much of these data exist in isolation. To maximize the value that could be collectively derived from these various data, the Gulf Research Program seeks to increase understanding of how existing databases can be harmonized, how data can be shared, how data can be used in identifying indicators of a potential incident, and ultimately how data collection can be improved to enhance offshore safety and safety culture. Questions that might be considered include:
    • What data are available and where are they housed?
    • Where are gaps and redundancies in data?
    • What are definitional differences in variables collected and resulting interpretations?
    • What are lessons learned, advantages and disadvantages of approaches, and best practices pertaining to offshore safety data collection?
    The desired output of this research is the design of a comprehensive pilot program supporting long-term curation of a global database of offshore oil and gas incident and safety data. A robust and inclusive safety database would supply fundamental information for the development of a long-term effort to increase safety culture in the oil and gas industry.
  • Near-Miss and Incident Reporting Systems: It is understood that near-miss and incident reporting programs can either boost or impede safety and safety culture. Several high-risk industries have developed successful reporting programs that have resulted in significant improvement of those industries’ safety record and, ultimately, a strengthening of the overall safety culture in those industries. The Gulf Research Program is interested in analysis of incident reporting practices from other high-risk industries (e.g., aviation, healthcare, mining) and the development of a pilot program to apply those practices to the offshore oil and gas industry. Questions that might be considered include:
    • How did incident reporting practices evolve over the years for a particular industry?
    • What were obstacles in developing, implementing, and maintaining a program and how were they overcome?
    • How was an incident reporting program implemented, how has the program evolved, and what issues still need to be addressed?
    • What aspects of this program could be adapted to the oil and gas industry?
    The intent is to learn from changes in the safety culture of high-risk industries over time and understand how lessons or attributes of successful incident reporting programs can be applied to the offshore oil and gas industry. An anticipated output of this activity is an implementation plan for a near-miss and incident reporting system designed for the offshore oil and gas industry.
  • Measurement of Safety Culture: Over the past decade, there has been a focus on defining and improving safety culture in the offshore oil and gas environment by industry, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, and organizations representing various sectors of the oil and gas industry. As efforts have been made to improve safety culture, many questions have arisen:
    • How does an organization know if it has the right safety culture?
    • How does an organization know if its efforts to improve the safety culture are working?
    • What efforts to improve safety culture have been most and least effective?
    • What works and does not work for empowering the workforce to promote a safety culture?
    • How does an organization know if its workforce is empowered or engaged to make safe decisions?
    • How can safety performance be assessed to understand factors that influence, promote, or impede safety culture?
    The Gulf Research Program seeks research projects that answer these questions and explore ways to obtain quantifiable measurement of safety culture achievement on a given offshore installation or in a set of company installations and how that measurement might vary across companies of different scale, complexity, and focus. We seek to understand how to measure and understand the impact (positive, neutral or negative) of changes implemented to improve safety culture.
  • Human-Systems Integration: As a system becomes more complex, it is essential that system design accounts for both human strengths and human limitations. It is also imperative that humans involved with the system consider information from various human and nonhuman sources (a variety of individuals, teams, and machines) when making critical decisions and that this information be considered in light of safety culture factors such as organizational hierarchy, psychosocial stress, and trust in automation.
    The Gulf Research Program seeks research projects to advance understanding of how decision-making processes evolve with increased automation in the offshore oil and gas industry. Specifically, how do decision-making processes change depending on the interactions involved that occur between humans only, between humans and machines, and between machines only, and how do these interactions influence system safety and safety culture in the offshore environment.

Project Guidelines

To be considered responsive to this Request for Applications topic, proposals should involve the following:
  • Research for Advancing Understanding of Safety Culture: Research should advance understanding of an aspect or attribute of safety culture. Information obtained from this research should accomplish one or more of the following within the context of the offshore oil and gas industry:
    • Serve as a foundation for future funding and implementation of a pilot program to understand or promote safety culture.
    • Transfer safety culture best practices from high-risk industries.
    • Increase awareness and understanding of the factors contributing to a strong or a weak safety culture.
    • Provide tools for measurement of safety culture.
  • Understanding the Offshore Oil and Gas Operational Environment: The project team should demonstrate a clear understanding of the operational landscape unique to offshore oil and gas operations. This may require researchers to acquire access to offshore facilities or to include or work closely with advisors or team members from the oil and gas industry, such as offshore development owners, contractors, operators, trainers, and/or regulatory agencies.
  • Applicable Information Toward Safer Offshore Oil and Gas Operations: Successful proposals should explain how the proposed research project is directly applicable to understanding and/or improving safety culture in the offshore oil and gas operational environment.

Award Information
  • Project Duration: Up to 36 months
  • Total Amount Available: $10 million
  • Estimated # of Awards: To be determined. Resources made available under this funding opportunity will depend on the quality of proposals received and the budgets proposed by successful applicants. The Gulf Research Program reserves the right to select for negotiation all, some, one, or none of the proposals received in response to this solicitation.
  • Award Notification: Fall 2019


These terms mean the following when referenced:
  • Applicant: The organization under which an application is being submitted (i.e., applying organization).
  • Project director: The individual who will lead the proposed project. The project director is responsible for the direction and intellectual design of the project and has primary responsibility for project execution and the submission of all required reports to the Gulf Research Program. Project directors usually initiate applications that are officially submitted by their employing organizations (the applicant). When initiating an application, the project director is responsible for ensuring it meets all the requirements outlined by the Gulf Research Program as well as any requirements set by their employing organization.
  • Key personnel: Individuals who share in the responsibility of the direction or intellectual design of the proposed project and/or contribute to the execution of the proposed project in a substantive, measurable way.
The Gulf Research Program welcomes applications from all types of U.S. organizations, excluding federal agencies, on behalf of qualified individuals.

Applications must adhere to the following to be eligible:
  • U.S. organizations (excluding federal agencies) that have a valid federal tax ID number are eligible to apply.
  • BP Exploration and Production, Inc. (BP), Transocean Deepwater, Inc. (Transocean), their affiliates, and employees are not eligible to receive grant funding or to participate in any grant.
  • This funding opportunity is for new, distinct activities only. Applications for activities that are already underway using other funds or that are seeking supplementary funds to continue an existing activity are not eligible. Proposed activities that are part of a broader, existing effort or “project” may be eligible if the application clearly demonstrates that the funding request is for new, distinct activities that would not otherwise occur.
  • Activities currently under consideration for funding from other sources are not eligible. The status of "currently under consideration for funding from other sources" is intended to mean that full or final application materials have been submitted to another entity to request funding. Submission of a letter of intent or pre-proposal to another funding source does not constitute an activity being "currently under consideration for funding from other sources" if that submission is a step that precedes submission of full or final application materials in an application process.
  • Activities that clearly lie under the direct responsibility of industry or regulatory agencies are not eligible.
  • U.S. organizations may partner with international organizations; a U.S. organization must be the applicant, but applicants may include key personnel from and subawards to non-U.S. organizations. Please note that legal restrictions may prohibit transactions, including subawards, between U.S. entities and entities within certain foreign countries.
  • U.S. federal agencies are not eligible to receive Gulf Research Program funding as applicants or subawardees, although their employees may be collaborators. Any proposed collaboration with employees of a U.S. federal agency should not involve any transfer of Gulf Research Program funding to the agency and must be in compliance with all applicable federal statutes and regulations.
Individuals named as project director or key personnel in an application must adhere to the following:
  • An individual may be proposed as project director in only one application. If an individual is proposed as project director in any application, that individual may also be proposed as key personnel in up to two additional applications.
  • An individual not proposed as a project director in any application may be named as key personnel in up to three applications.
  • It is the responsibility of each individual being named as project director or key personnel in any application to ensure that they are not named in more than three total applications.

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