February 11, 2011
In September 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) invited Professor Leslie E. Wolf to provide expert testimony on the design of a National Institute of Health (NIH) study of the health effects of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill. To assist the IOM committee, which is providing independent review of the federal response to this oil spill, the IOM convened a workshop to obtain input on the planned study, entitled the "Gulf Long-term Follow-up of Clean-up Workers Study."
Wolf participated in the first day of the workshop, which included an overview of the study and expert commentary on issues of study goals and design, data collection, cohort surveillance, maintenance of community relationships, and interagency collaboration.
Wolf noted the importance of careful consideration of what data are collected and why and how that data are protected given the certainty that there will be litigation concerning the spill. Attorneys may want access to the data collected by the study for use in the litigation. A Certificate of Confidentiality can help protect data from subpoena, but investigators should know how to respond to a legal request.
"You want a protocol that is maximally protective, and everybody at every level understands that," Wolf said.