Monday, August 04, 2008

CIRM Bans California Stem Cell Report

California's $3 billion stem cell agency has had enough!

It has officially banned the California Stem Cell Report from information it circulates to its board of directors and staff. Some employees say staff morale has improved as a result, the agency declares.

Like many other state agencies, CIRM collects news clippings and other information pertinent to its operations and circulates them to a selected audience. For some time (a couple of years, as we understand it), items from this blog were included in the electronic clippings sent to directors. They were also included in clippings sent to grant recipients.

Last year, CIRM unceremoniously dumped the California Stem Cell Report from the clippings to the grant recipients. A while back, we heard scuttlebutt that CIRM's 29 directors no longer had the great pleasure of reading our items, at least courtesy of CIRM. No matter, a mere piffle, we thought. Last week, we heard the report again. So we asked Don Gibbons, CIRM's chief communications officer, whether this "shocking" rumor was correct. Yes, he replied. Gibbons said,
"Before I arrived, all citizen blogs, yours and (patient advocate) Don Reed’s, were dropped from the clips that went to the grantees because it was viewed as too much information they did not care about. They wanted the research news in the rest of the clips. But this required paying extra to create two sets of clips, sending the full clips with the blogs to the board and internal staff. I decided it was not worth the extra cost, and started sending the shorter version to everyone. The service has slipped up and let a couple of Reed’s columns get in, but I have asked them to make sure that does not happen. Eliminating both eliminates bias in the package, and frankly, several in-house staff have said morale has improved since your posts have been removed."
But then we wondered about unordained flackery from various enterprises that has been distributed by CIRM as part of its official "news." Yes, Gibbons said in response to our question; PR releases are picked up from the Ascribe PR network, which specializes in pumping nonprofit-oriented publicity into mainstream newsrooms at as much as $300 a pop. Ascribe's clients include Scripps, Burnham, the University of California, AARP and the National Association of Social Workers.

Musing about all this, we sent off a query to Consumer Watchdog's John M. Simpson, a skilled practitioner of flackery, as well as a former newspaper editor and longtime observer of California stem cell affairs. He replied,
"After reading the California Stem Cell Report daily for more-than-two-and-a-half years, I know how dangerous and subversive it is.

"I only let my wife read it under my direct supervision and would never contemplate allowing my adult children to see it."
Aghast we were. Do you really mean that, John, we promptly emailed him back.

His reponse:
"In this day of Google searches and alerts, I'm hard pressed to understand why anyone would pay anything to have any clips circulated. As for the California Stem Cell Report, I certainly don't agree with all the views expressed there, but I don't understand how anyone interested in CIRM and stem cell research would notoi check it daily. It has become the publication of record on all stem cell related issues in California. If I were CIRM's president I'd make it required daily reading for all employees and would encourage ICOC members to check it frequently."
(Editor's note: We have updated the masthead information at the top of this page to reflect our current status with the world's largest source of funding for human embryonic stem cell research.) Sphere: Related Content

6 comments:

  1. Anonymous4:42 PM

    I agree with the CIRM. This blog does not discuss the science of stem cell research. This blog is more in line with the guy who sits in the back of every school board meetings and comments about all the errors in the proceedings. You are more concerned with form over content. You have your place. It is just not science oriented.

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  2. Thanks for your comment. However, the purpose of this blog is to deal with public policy issues of CIRM -- not the science. Those issues involve such matters as conflict of interest, which is not a minor question in a $3 billion giveaway. One director is currently under investigation by the state for violating CIRM own conflict policies. Other issues involve its willingness to abide by the state constitution's guarantee of public access, another area where CIRM has fallen short. Not to mention management issues, which have troubled the agency since its beginning, impairing its ability to perform its mission. The science is important, but there are scores of websites dealing with the subject. Only one website -- the California Stem Cell Report -- exists that deals with the public policy issues confronting an agency unique in California history.

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  3. Anonymous10:15 AM

    Your website is vitally important to California taxpayers; I find it to be a balanced and compelling commentary and timely examination of CIRM's operations and the underlying business of the science CIRM was created to pursue. No public agency, financed with taxpayer dollars (in any economy, not to mention particularly at a time when the State's budget is overwrought with shortfalls) should operate autonomously and/or without careful and ongoing oversight. In my opinion, your website serves a fundamental purpose, including but not limited to: synopsizing voluminous (and they are voluminous) CIRM transcripts and other source documents; working to unravel the business and political issues related to the science of stem cell reseaarch; and delivering the results to the public in a style that is lucid and utilitizing an approach that is objective. Immense thanks to you for not losing sight of the issues and the oft-repeated politial themes as CIRM continues operating.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous10:56 AM

    REVISED BY ORIGINAL POSTER, ONLY TO CORRECT TWO (2)TYPOGRAPHICAL ERRORS

    Your website is vitally important to California taxpayers; I find it to be a balanced and compelling commentary and timely examination of CIRM's operations and the underlying business of the science CIRM was created to pursue. No public agency, financed with taxpayer dollars (in any economy, not to mention particularly at a time when the State's budget is overwrought with shortfalls) should operate autonomously and/or without careful and ongoing oversight. In my opinion, your website serves a fundamental purpose, including but not limited to: synopsizing voluminous (and they are voluminous) CIRM transcripts and other source documents; working to unravel the business and political issues related to the science of stem cell research; and delivering the results to the public in a style that is lucid and utilizing an approach that is objective. Immense thanks to you for not losing sight of the issues and the oft-repeated politial themes as CIRM continues operating.

    ReplyDelete
  5. The following was sent directly to the blog by an anonymous poster. An earlier version of it may have appeared, but this one appears to be snagged in cyberspace. The original author sent it to correct two typographical errors in the first.

    "Your website is vitally important to California taxpayers; I find it to be a balanced and compelling commentary and timely examination of CIRM's operations and the underlying business of the science CIRM was created to pursue. No public agency, financed with taxpayer dollars (in any economy, not to mention particularly at a time when the State's budget is overwrought with shortfalls) should operate autonomously and/or without careful and ongoing oversight. In my opinion, your website serves a fundamental purpose, including but not limited to: synopsizing voluminous (and they are voluminous) CIRM transcripts and other source documents; working to unravel the business and political issues related to the science of stem cell research; and delivering the results to the public in a style that is lucid and utilizing an approach that is objective. Immense thanks to you for not losing sight of the issues and the oft-repeated politial themes as CIRM continues operating."

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anonymous12:29 AM

    Regardless of what the CIRM's official stance may be, my spouse, a high-profile member of the oversight committee, has a link to the California Stem Cell Report on our computer's browser task bar at home. And it is clicked routinely. I believe the same can be said of my spouse's computer at work.

    By the way, my spouse's morale seems to be fine.

    ReplyDelete