Thursday, February 05, 2015

The California Stem Cell Agency and "Over-Performance' -- Study Cites Hefty Publication Record

The trajectory of CIRM-funded research publications in two areas: The blue
line involves U.S. hESC research articles, green represents iPSC. The black
 and grey lines involve non-CIRM funded research from California in cancer
and RNAi. The vertical bars indicate the general date when each of the four
 states studied began their state-funded efforts. Levine chart.
A study by a Georgia Tech researcher today indicated that California state funding has “played an important role” in creating “over-performance” in the Golden State’s stem cell research efforts.

The article in Cell Stem Cell by Aaron Levine, an associate professor of at Georgia Tech’s School of Public Policy,  was titled "Assessing State Stem Cell Programs in the United States: How Has State Funding Affected Publication Trends?"

It dealt with publication of human embryonic (hESC) and induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) research from 2006 to 2013 from four states with stem cell programs. He and his students counted the frequency of articles that cited some funding from each of the state agencies involved.  

Levine wrote,
“In both California and Connecticut, state funding programs appear to have contributed to over-performance in the field.”
 He also said,
“Between 2010 and 2013, approximately 55 % of hESC-related articles published with at least one California author acknowledged state funding, suggesting that this funding program played an important role as California maintained and built upon its early leadership in the field.” 
Levine noted that other measures are important in assessing the impact of the state efforts, including New York and Maryland. In an email, he said,
“There are many possible measures of impact. These could include measures of research output (i.e. publications or patents), research quality (i.e. citations to publications or patents or measures of journal quality), scientist training, scientist recruitment, commercialization of research, etc.  The hope for this article is to provide one data point in an ongoing effort to better understand the impact of CIRM and other state stem cell funding programs.  It's always hard to know how a research program will unfold, but I certainly hope to conduct additional analyses of state funding efforts and contribute to our understanding of the impact these programs have had on the field.” 
Levine examined hESC articles because that area of research was critical to California voter approval of Proposition 71 in 2004. The ballot measure created the $3 billion California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), the formal name of the stem cell agency. The initiative was mounted in response to the Bush Administration’s restrictions on hESC research.

The agency says that about 240 of its 667 awards involve human embryonic stem cells. A little more than 100 involve iPSC. CIRM has awarded $1.9 billion so far and is expected to run out of money in 2020 at the current pace.

Aaron Levine
Georgia Tech photo
Levine, who served on the Institute of Medicine panel that evaluated the California agency, also published a piece in 2010 that said through 2009 only 18 percent of California's dollars went for grants that were "clearly" not eligible for federal funding.

Here are some excerpts from Levine’s article today.
“After the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) issued its first grants in April 2006, the share of articles acknowledging California funding increased rapidly from approximately 3% in 2006 to 2007 to more than 20% in 2010 to 2011 and 2012 to 2013. 
“Overall, California state funding was acknowledged in nearly 19% of all hESC-related articles in our data set published between 2006 and 2013, compared with 1.8% of articles in a comparable set of RNAi-related research (t test, p < 0.01). 45% of the hESC-related articles published between 2006 and 2013 in our data set with at least one author from California acknowledged funding from the state.”
 “Our comparative analysis provides some of the first evidence that the distribution of stem-cell-related publications in the United States differs from the distribution of publications in fields not targeted by specific state funding policies, and our analysis of the funding sources acknowledged in many of these articles strongly suggests that state funding is responsible, in part, for these differences.
"The share of hESC-and iPSC-related publications produced in each of the four states examined depends on a variety of considerations, including the size, strengths, and interests of the scientific community and the specifics of the policy itself (i.e., its timing, its size, and its focus). In addition, it depends on the competitive environment within the United States, as over-performance in one state must be balanced by under-performance in others. In both California and Connecticut, state funding programs appear to have contributed to over-performance in the field. In California’s case, the state was already a strong performer in hESC related research before its state funding policy was adopted in 2004, and funding began flowing in 2006. This may reflect a generally supportive state environment or a first-mover advantage, as Geron Corporation, a key funder of early hESC research, is based in the state.
“Following passage of Proposition 71 in November 2004 and the creation of CIRM in the ensuing years, the state’s share of hESC-related research grew from approximately 25% in 2002 to 2003 to more than 40%, and the state maintained this position of strength in both hESC-and iPSC-related research from 2008 through the end of our data in 2013. Between 2010 and 2013, approximately 55% of hESC related articles published with at least one California author acknowledged state funding, suggesting that this funding program played an important role as California maintained and built upon its early leadership in the field." 
“In addition, publications are only one measure of the impact of state science funding programs, and examining other outcomes (e.g., patents awarded, clinical trials initiated, etc.) is an important topic for future investigation. Indeed, more thorough efforts to evaluate these state stem cell programs, ideally drawing on the initial goals of the programs and a wide range of relevant outcomes, would be an important step to help assess their impact on the field and the value of field specific state science funding programs more generally.”
The students listed on the article include Hillary Alberta, Albert Cheng, Emily L. Jackson and Matthew Pjecha.

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