Monday, February 12, 2007

Sacramento Bee: CIRM Grants 'Needlessly Shrouded'

The Sacramento Bee today endorsed sunshine at the California stem cell agency.

In an editorial headlined "grant process is needlessly shrouded," the newspaper called for legislative changes to open up CIRM. Here is an excerpt:
"Scientists from outside states do much of this review work, and are not required to publicly disclose their potential conflicts of interest. Undoubtedly, some of those scientists have outside consulting work, or personal relationships with researchers seeking funding, that could affect their grant decisions. Yet under the institute's shrouded procedures, it is impossible for anyone -- including researchers applying for grants -- to be assured that grant reviewers are recusing themselves at the proper times.

This lack of public disclosure is the single most glaring problem with the Institute for Regenerative Medicine. While it is momentous that California is now on the leading edge of financing embryonic stem cell research, the institute still hasn't adopted a transparent procedure for policing potential conflicts. Lawmakers, in this session of the Legislature, need to correct that."
The Bee editorial had received two comments from readers as of this morning. Both were generally opposed to ESC research. One asked, "Can we do a recall on ballot initiatives."

We want to assure curious minds that The Bee editorial and our item below, "CIRM Money Machine," only coincidentally appeared within less than 24 hours of each other. No collusion existed. But being a skeptic ourselves, we know that the denial will do no good. Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

  1. In the scientific area, people have understood that those most likely to have the best understanding of a proposal are those who are in some sense "competitors" of the proposer.

    There can be a conflict of interest in a bad sense, such that the reviewer turns down the proposal, to harm the competitor. The misuse of confidential information in a proposal (whether advertent or inadvertent) has been documented (and was even the subject of a plot line on Law & Order ten years ago ["Big Bang" episode on proton lifetime; see
    archives/2004_01_09_academicgame_archive.html and my article on "scientific doormen" at pages 34-35 of the January 1999 issue of Intellectual Property Today, available LEXIS]).

    If one makes the review publicly accessible, there may be a tendency by the reviewer to be less than candid. Further, there is a separate conflict of interest issue, in that reviewers may approve a proposal [even a bad one] to make the field grow. This issue came up in the field of solid state physics during the time of Jan Hendrik Schon. [look here for some issues.]

    In an ideal world, reviews would not be anonymous, reviewers would be objective in their comments, and neither the reviewer nor the reviewee would fear reprisals. One notes that federal funding agencies still use non-disclosed reviewers.

    Lawrence B. Ebert
    13 Feb. 07