Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Does CIRM Have a "Secret" Proposal on Openness?

We are sad to report, once again, the failure of the California stem cell agency to comply with its own promise of the highest standards of openness and transparency.

We have written repeatedly about the failure of CIRM to provide adequate background material in a timely fashion on the important matters on its agenda. Even some of its own directors have complained publicly.

The most recent example is Friday's meeting of the Oversight Committee. For example if you care about open access to CIRM-funded findings, you would be hard pressed to determine whether that is a subject to be considered at the session -- aside from the IP draft rules.

But apparently it is. There is a brief mention on the agenda of a proposed venture with the Public Library of Science. If you dig into that enterprise, it is all about making scientific findings widely available. Why isn't there additional information available from CIRM about the venture? There is a bit of irony in all this – an apparent openness proposal that is basically being advanced in secret.

Is CIRM going to sell naming rights to its stem cell scholar program? In other words, are we going to have something known as the World Savings Stem Cell Scholar Program. The quid pro quo may be purchase of CIRM bond anticipation notes. Maybe that is on the agenda(item 13) as well. It is impossible to tell from the document online. But we heard stem cell chairman Robert Klein broach the idea in September at a meeting of the Oversight Committee.

More details may be posted on these matters as the day progresses on Thursday. But most interested parties, if they wish to make their views known, cannot simply abandon all other plans on a one-day or less notice to appear at Friday's Oversight Committee meeting.

That said, we should give credit to CIRM for posting the IP policy and research standards earlier this week. In the case of IP, it was on Saturday. An excellent example to be emulated for all agenda items.

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