R’s role in the national response to the BP Oil Spill

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In the early days of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the rate of flow of oil from the spill was of great concern: estimating it accurately was key to coordinating the scale and scope of the response to the emergency. Unfortunately, estimates from independent sources varied widely, and BP’s own estimates varied widely over time. 

Antonio Possolo, Division Chief of Statistical Engineering at the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST), was charged with making sense of these varied estimates to help the government coordinate the national response to the spill. As described in this video testimonial (starting at 2:20), Possolo was sitting in the company of the Secretaries of Energy and the Interior, when he broke out R on his laptop to run uncertainty analysis and harmonize the estimates from the various sources. In the video, Possolo is adamant in his confidence in his statistical analysis using the open-source R system. As he says to the crowd (including many of the developers of R), “The quality that you have built into R, through public, open examination, is the greatest strength and source of confidence I could have asked for.” 

Blip.tv: useR talks, video #1

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