Thursday, February 01, 2007

CIRM Presidential Search: Concern Over Leaks, Search Bids Likely

The California stem cell agency is moving to ask for bids from firms to help in the search for a new president of the $3 billion agency.

The Presidential Search Subcommittee Wednesday voted 12-1 to seek the bids, we have been told. Presumably that will require ratification by the full Oversight Committee later this month.

Joan Samuelson, a member of the Oversight Committee, was reportedly the only negative vote, saying she wanted to define the job before hiring the search firm.

Some members of the search committee also were not happy about the disclosure that James Battey, the federal stem cell chief, was approached about the job. Their concern was that other good candidates might be driven off.

However, Battey's name was certain to come up as are the names of others who were considered in 2005. At least the names that became public. The California Stem Cell Report has a strong bias towards openness on the part of public agencies, including CIRM. However, this is one case where confidentiality is important. A job search for president that has all its candidates on public display is a poor way to hire good people. That said, it is difficult to control leaks on a high profile job such as CIRM president.

Confidentiality starts with the Oversight Committee. If they discuss names with outsiders, they can expect leaks. Candidates themselves will also lead to leaks if they discuss the job with others, which is likely to be part of their process of evaluating CIRM.

The Oversight Committee can also expect situations like Battey's. His name apparently emerged because of the way the NIH works. That could happen with other candidates as well.

As for the California Stem Cell Report, we will carry the names of candidates if they emerge in news stories and perhaps under other newsworthy circumstances. Sphere: Related Content

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