Monday, October 16, 2006

SEED Grant Hopefuls Total 232; Names Remain Secret

A whopping 232 applications competing for $24 million in grants has deluged the California stem cell agency – a figure that CIRM today said demonstrated "the keen interest in the field and the pent up demand for funding for human embryonic stem cell research."

Names of not only the scientists but also their institutions, many of them likely state-funded schools, are secret by the decision of CIRM. However, nothing prevents the applicants themselves from disclosing the fact that they have applied for state funding, and some are expected to do so.

Failure to disclose the names of persons and institutions seeking state funds is poor governmental policy and hardly complies with CIRM's oft repeated pledge for the highest standards of transparency and openness.

John M. Simpson, stem cell project director for the Foundation of Taxpayer and Consumers Rights of Santa Monica, Ca., said:
"The stem cell institute missed another opportunity to operate transparently and build the public’s trust when it announced today that it received 232 applications for 30 SEED research grants from researchers affiliated with 36 nonprofit institutions.

"Californians have a tremendous interest in knowing how this pool is cut to 30 grantees. All would be better served if the names of the applicants and their institutions were released. If you want our money, tell us who you are.

“There’s no need to worry about embarrassing somebody because they don’t get a grant. CIRM is planning to fund only 12.9 percent of the applicants. Missing this cut is no big deal. Scientists need to develop thicker skins if they want to use public money for their work and CIRM needs to let the sun shine in."
(You can read more on this subject at "sunshine needed," "bad policy," "secrecy broken" and "CIRM defends.")

In a CIRM press release, Arlene Chiu, CIRM director of scientific programs, said, "We’re delighted that there is such strong competition for our inaugural research initiative, and that the applicants are considering such a broad range of approaches. It bodes well for the future of our program."

The grants are expected to be awarded in January – the first research funded by the agency since it was created in 2004. Review of the applications, a prodiguous task, is scheduled for late November. (See item below.) Sphere: Related Content

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