Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Time for a Little More Explanation

The California stem cell agency meets this Friday to vote on its first grants, but what is missing from its proposed agenda appears to be public discussion of how the agency intends to pay for them.

The agency's budget was up for review at an agency subcommittee meeting in late August, but oddly the financial plan is not on the agenda of the full Oversight Committee.

The staff report presented in August recommended adoption by the Oversight Committee of a conservative spending plan that would not provide any grants during 2005-2006. No such spending recommendation appears to be up for specific consideration at the Sacramento meeting, although the budget might be cloaked in item 13. (For more on the budget, see "Inside Spending Plans" item Aug. 31.)

The Oversight Committee agenda also contains some background material on several other matters, particularly on the important subject of guidelines for embryonic stem cell research. The proposed rules are available for download by the public. What is missing, however, is a “translation” and summary of the issues at hand – along the lines of the analysis provided by the California Legislative Analyst on bills before state lawmakers.

Admittedly that is not an easy task, but without a translation from scientific jargon, the important policy questions are only open to the scientific stem cell community – not the public. Providing such an analysis would seem to be an excellent task that could be performed by the Edelman PR firm, which is being paid nearly $30,000 a month for public information services for the agency.

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