Thursday, April 05, 2007

Criticism: The Price for a CIRM Grant

The California stem cell agency is breaking into some of the cloistered halls of science with criticism that publicly labels one scientist "naïve" and calls another scientist's proposal potentially irrelevant.

Of course, the sting of the criticism is soothed with the balm of multimillion dollar research grants.

Reporter Carl Hall of the San Francisco Chronicle recently sliced a bit deeper than other reporters into the public summaries of the grants won by California scientists, noting that they "offer a rare glimpse into the traditionally cloistered world of scientific peer review. He quoted Arlene Chiu, director of scientific programs at CIRM, as saying,
"The NIH doesn't show any of this kind of thing going on, This is the first time you can see how people criticize one another."
Arnold Kriegstein, chief of the UC San Francisco stem cell program, was the target of a comment that he was "naïve" on some technical matters. He told Hall he was a victim of his own brevity and may have been misunderstood "in certain technical aspects." His bruises were nicely tended with a $2.5 million grant.

Alice Tarantal, a pediatrics professor at UC Davis, described the review as a "very fair process" although some reviewers questioned how relevant her model was from a clinical perspective. She received a $2.3 million grant.

The names of those criticized are only publicly released after the grants are approved, although some persons very familiar with stem cell research could identify at least some of the scientists in advance based on the nature of their work. The names of those who fail to win grants are not released.

We have written often about unwarranted secrecy in the grant process. But the public summaries are an excellent step in the right direction and CIRM should receive ample credit for providing them.

Hall should also receive credit for bringing them to a higher level of public visibility.

In another grant-related story, reporter Terri Somers of the San Diego Union-Tribune looked more closely at some of the recipients of CIRM grants, including those relatively new to the field. She described how their research is cutting across specialities with the hope of transforming the field.

One example is a $638,000 grant to UC San Diego professor Shu Chien, a medical doctor and pioneer in bioengineering. Somers wrote:"'His team will use a testing system he helped to develop so they can simultaneously look at thousands of proteins and their effects on different cells.

"'So instead of doing these tests one by one in a test tube, which could take years, we can do them all at once,' Chien said." Sphere: Related Content

No comments:

Post a Comment