The official website of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council

Best Available Science

The RESTORE Act requires the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council) to “undertake projects and programs, using the best available science that would restore and protect the natural resources, ecosystems, fisheries, marine and wildlife habitats, beaches, coastal wetlands, and economy of the Gulf Coast.” Per the RESTORE Act, "best available science" (BAS) is defined as science that:

  • Maximizes the quality, objectivity, and integrity of information, including statistical information;
  • Uses peer-reviewed and publicly available data; and
  • Clearly documents and communicates risks and uncertainties in the scientific basis for such projects. 

RESTORE Council Best Available Science Intergration

The RESTORE Council staff works to faciliatate the integration of BAS into Council activities and decision-making:

  • Serving as a Gulf Research Program Science Policy Fellow Host Office.
  • Coordinating activities with the Council Monitoring and Assessment Workgroup (CMAWG): 
  • Coordinating on science and data management activities with other Gulf of Mexico science and restoration funding agencies:
  • Supporting data management related to RESTORE funded projects, increasing collaboration, and ensuring transparency with the development of the Council Metadata Records Library and Information Network (MERLIN).
  • Creating an in-house grant system, Program Information Platform for Ecosystem Restoration (PIPER), to review project/program proposals and applications, and track their continued progress toward meeting project/program goals and objectives.

Best Available Science Review Process in FPL Development

To meet the intent of the RESTORE Act, the RESTORE Council began by incorporating BAS into the 2015 Initial Funded Priorities List (2015 Initial FPL), by creating a science review process that utilized external science reviews to ensure proposals were developed using the best available science. More information about the use of BAS reviews during the 2015 Initial FPL can be found in the Initial FPL External Science Review Process.

After the approval of the 2015 Initial FPL, the RESTORE Council conducted a 360 review to gather feedback from both the Council Members and the public on the overall FPL process. As a result of that feedback, the RESTORE Council released the 2016 Comprehensive Plan Update: Restoring the Gulf Coast’s Ecosystem and Economy (2016 Comprehensive Plan Update). The 2016 Comprehensive Plan Update emphasized the importance of coordination and collaboration in order to leverage resources and maximize the effectiveness of available restoration funding, and strengthened the Council’s commitment to the use of best available science. 

To enhance the Best Available Science Review process for the third Funded Priorities List (FPL 3), the Council developed a revised approach to address challenges identified in the 2015 Initial FPL development process. This approach continues to use external technical experts for BAS reviews for each submission, but also includes an internal BAS Proposal Review Panel. The internal science review panel’s collaborative review of all proposals offers increased opportunity to identify project interactions, synergies, benefits, and risks. This can assist the Council in selecting projects that will maximize benefits and support a holistic approach to Gulf restoration.

Revised BAS process resources:

Council Funding for Science, Monitoring and Data Management

Of projects included in the 2015 Initial FPL, the following are focused specifically on science and monitoring:

All projects and programs awarded funding by the Council are also required to provide two plans:

Observational Data Plans- provide the Council information relevant to project or program monitoring data collection and compilation activities undertaken to evaluate if funded projects and programs are meeting their goals and restoration targets.

Data Management Plans- contain information relevant to project or program data management and delivery, and help ensure that project/program data will be compatible and comparable with data collection efforts for the Council throughout the Gulf of Mexico region.

For additional information on best available science activities please contact Jessica Henkel