Monday, August 27, 2012

Researcher Alert: Troubling CIRM Grant Appeal Process Up for Revision

Directors of the California stem cell agency next week are expected to make unspecified changes in how scientists can appeal denials of their applications for millions of dollars in research grants.

The move follows a jam-packed and emotional meeting last month in which the CIRM governing board faced a record outpouring of appeals of negative decisions by grant reviewers. The board is the ultimate arbiter on applications. While it almost never overturns positive decisions by reviewers, it sometimes approves applications that they have rejected. 

No details of the proposed changes in the appeal process are yet available for the meeting Sept. 5-6 in Burlingame, Ca. All that is known at this point is the following item from the board agenda: “consideration of modifications to the extraordinary petition policy and adoption of additional information policy.” Extraordinary petitions are the key vehicle for appeals.

The appeals process has long troubled the CIRM board. It has made changes in the procedures, but last month's high stakes, $243 million round posed new challenges and consumed so much time that the board was unable to complete action on several items.

As a result of the July appeals, the board sent five applications back for re-review. (See here, here and here.) Some of those are expected to come up next week and others at the end of October. The board agenda, however, did not specify which applications would be considered next week. Nor did it specify how many additional appeals have been filed in the round that was up for approval in July.

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