Wednesday, January 31, 2007

CIRM Guide to the $100 Million Grant Process

The California stem cell agency has posted on its Web site a useful guide to its plans for handing out more than $100 million in research grants, including timelines and other procedures.

Much of the information has been available before but it was scattered and hard to find. Now it has been compiled in a tidy package. Some of the information is fresh. For example, the memo said:
"In the first week of February, we will release a list of all the SEED Grant applications. That list will include the title of the research proposal, the numeric score (1 to 100) it received from the Grants Working Group, and the Working Group’s recommendation (Recommended for funding, Recommended if funds available, or Not recommended for funding at this time). From our Web site, viewers can click on the application number to open a public abstract of the proposal, a statement of its benefits to California, the applicant’s proposed budget, and a summary of the Working Group’s review."
The memo also reiterated the agency's intention to maintain its secrecy concerning the names of those seeking millions of dollars in government funds – a dubious practice adopted because that it is the way it always been done (at least on the federal level) to protect rejected applicants from embarrassment. We should note that some of the applicants have already disclosed that they have applied, making the attempt at secrecy a bit ineffectual and raising questions about why the applicants disclosed when the granting agency prefers secrecy.

The memo was prepared originally for use by the ink-stained wretches of the media, but it has value for anyone interested in the grants. You can clip it and post it on the outside of your petri dish.


  1. David,

    CIRM's penchant for secrecy only undermines the public's credibility in the award process.

    CIRM need only look to Connecticut's stem cell program to see the propoer approach to spending public money. All applicants are indentified along with affiliation and scientific score. As the awards are made in a public meeting, everybody knows who and what is being discussed.

    Connecticut's peer review committee, made up of out-of-state scientists, is chaired by Leslie P. Weiner, of USC's Keck School of Medicine.

    CIRM should adopt Connecticut's approach.

    John M. Simpson
    Stem Cell Project Director
    Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights

  2. Anonymous2:24 PM

    Connecticut lets its board members apply for grants personally. Think CIRM should adopt that practice, too?

  3. Dear Anonymous,

    Yes members of the Connecticut stem cell oversight committee can apply for grants. However, you know who they are, what they are asking for and what the scientific score for the proposal is. In the most recent round one of the best known stem cell researchers in the state who is on the board had applied for a grant. It got a low scientific score from the panel of out-of-state peer reviewers and he did not get a grant. He said he'd apply next time.

    While it's true in California that individuals on the board can't apply for grants, thirteen board members are representatives of the institutions whose staff will be applying.

    We'd all be better served if we knew who is applying, who is getting the money and who is not.

    And yes it would probably be better if Connecticut's board members couldn't apply, but at least the whole process is transparent. As was demonstrated with the most recent awards, that's a rather significant check on any favoritism or other abuse.

    John M. Simpson


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