Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Seeking Summaries: The Hunt for How $263 Million Will Be Spent

If you are looking for the public summaries of the applications for $263 million in stem cell lab construction grants scheduled to be considered tomorrow by the California stem cell agency, you will not find them on the meeting's agenda.

Instead they are tucked away under the category of "funding opportunities," although the opportunity to apply has long since passed.

Normally, the agenda for the Oversight Committee contains a link -- at some point prior to the actual meeting -- to the summaries of applications for grants. However, as of this writing, no link was posted on the CIRM website.

When we inquired early today, we were told that they can be found at the "funding opportunities" location. It wasn't clear when the summaries were posted at that location – perhaps Friday, perhaps Monday, we were told by the agency. A spokeswoman for the CIRM said she was going to ask about the reasons for failure to link the summaries to the agenda.

The simplest explanation is that there was a foul-up. Some might conjure up wilder reasons.

Whatever the reason, posting the summaries as late as Monday does not well serve the agency, the public or interested parties. State law requires ample notice in advance of public meetings because some governmental agencies in the past were not notifying the public about matters they were entitled to know. To serve the intent of law well, the agenda must also provide more than cryptic statements. Failure to provide background material well prior to meetings only leads to cynical speculation and creates an atmosphere of distrust.

CIRM had considerable problems in the past posting background material sufficiently in advance of meetings. Even Oversight Committee members complained. The problem seemed to ease a while back. But slippage, including the lab grants matter and also involving the biotech task force, has occurred recently. One would hope the problem will be resolved as the new president, Alan Trounson, settles in.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:24 PM

    Certainly they were posted by last Thursday, as colleagues and I were exchanging notes about the contents of the summaries of competing proposals on the afternoon of the tenth (I went back to my email archives). You are right that they could have been better linked, but it wasn't a particularly obscure place to look for them.


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