DEM / URI Scientific Support FAQ

Last Updated: March 2, 2010

If I agree to be on the roster of support scientists for BART, am I committed to do anything for DEM? 

No.  The roster is simply a list of people who might – but need not necessarily — agree to serve as investigators on a specific DEM project in the future.  By joining the roster you indicate only your willingness to assist as circumstances permit.  No obligation exists until you and the State agree to a specific “Work Order” for a particular investigation.

If I am on the roster and then agree to work on a DEM project, under the terms of the DEM/URI agreement, are there restrictions on what I can do with my findings? 

Normally, yes.  “Deliverables” –the data and analysis that you develop under contract with the State — would belong to the State (normally, RI DEM).  Given the volatility of environmental issues, the legal and ethical ramifications of publishing data, rights to privacy, and need for coordination during emergency response, the distribution of findings must be subject to unified, consistent policy and authority.  DEM may decide to share your deliverables with other parties or the press, but you cannot, unless you request and receive advance approval. 

What about money?  Will my time be compensated?  Will someone cover the cost of supplies and other research expenses? 

Yes.  The DEM and URI have a signed Memorandum of Understanding that has since been extended and allows DEM to engage the services of URI scientists and to compensate them and the University for their time and materials.  The compensation provided by DEM can be used to cover personnel costs for “soft-money” scientists (e.g., research technicians) and students.  For URI faculty, the compensation will be considered salary release for 12-month faculty or summer salary for 9-month contract faculty.  Costs of supplies, travel, and other expenses stipulated in the Work Order will be reimbursed as budgeted in the Work Order.

Can I be a consultant for another group involved in an environmental incident and RI DEM at the same time?

No, unless you ask and receive approval from the State in advance.  DEM’s answer is likely to depend on who the other group is.  For example, in an oil spill you cannot provide expert counsel both to the State of Rhode Island and to the party who is allegedly responsible for the spill (“the RP”).  However, it is possible, and perhaps desirable, that you provide scientific information to other natural resource Trustees (state, federal, or tribal agencies).  We are trying to avoid situations where the RP “hires away” the State’s best and brightest experts.

What is the actual process?  How might I be contacted and contract?

When the need for scientific support arises, the RI DEM Emergency Response Coordinator will contact the URI Coastal Institute to see if someone with appropriate expertise is on the roster of support scientists.  In consultation with DEM, CI will contact the scientist(s) who seems most appropriate and ask him/her to complete a simple work order:  a one-page description of the work they would perform and a budget.  This work order will then be submitted to CI and transmitted to DEM where approval can be granted and the work authorized.  A streamlined accounting structure is now in place at URI for these circumstances.  All of these communications can move by e-mail, and the time from initial contact to approval could be as brief as a few hours.

What should I do if I wish to be included on the URI / DEM roster of support scientists?


Judith Swift at 874-6513 (jswift<at>
Peter August at 874-4794 (pete<at>

Where can I learn more about BART and RIOST? 

The following web sites might be useful: