“ It seems to me there's a bit of 'damned if we do and damned if we don't' here. If the ICOC (the agency governing board) decides to listen to some of the members of the public who come to our meetings and overrule a recommendation of the Grants Working Group(GWG), we're slammed for letting emotion trump science, or bowing to special interests. If we just accept the rankings of the GWG and approve all their recommendations, we're criticized for not being truly independent. I think we don't do it often (for good reason) but should and do retain the right to look at other factors besides those our scientific reviewers do, and make our own decisions about funding. We are ultimately responsible, not the scientific reviewers.
“As for the issue of their disclosure of personal conflicts of interest, from what I've read of the NIH processes, ours are no less strict. The NIH requires that reviewers disclose any conflicts to their institutions which I believe must disclose them to the NIH, but I have not seen anything requiring them to disclose all their personal financial & other interests publicly, as we (ICOC members) have to. When we were assembling our group of reviewers initially, the fear was that many of the best scientists would turn us down if we required them to make the kind of personal disclosures we have to. I don't know how many we might actually lose if that were the case, but as you know we do require them to disclose to CIRM, and they have to leave the room when any application for which they have a conflict is discussed.”