Friday, July 18, 2008

A Critical Look at CIRM's Stem Cell Globe-Trotting

The Consumer Watchdog group is taking a dim view of the travel plans of the top executives of the California stem cell agency, describing as "bafflegab" the justification for spending much of the $558,000 in what CIRM describes as its "other travel" budget.

John M. Simpson
, stem cell project director for the non-profit advocacy group, made his comments on his organization's blog. They were based on previously undisclosed documents that he requested from CIRM.

Among other things, the CIRM documents showed that its chairman, Bob Klein(pictured), is scheduled to be outside of California for 88 days at state expense in 2008-09. That does not include his travel within California, such as his trip today to Santa Barbara.

Chief Science Office Marie Csete will be out of California 75 days, CIRM President Alan Trounson 68 days, Chief Communications Officer Don Gibbons 32 days. All of which amounts to a 287 percent increase (in terms of dollars) in "other travel" by CIRM officials.

China, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, the United Kingdom, Sweden, The Netherlands, France, Korea, Australia, Italy, South Africa and Canada are among the destinations.

To a CIRM travel justification that said in part that some of the trips were necessary "in order to have an integrated picture of state of the art and forward-looking research agendas," Simpson retorted, "bafflegab."

He continued,
"After crunching the numbers I checked with some scientists.  All agreed there is a need for the hard-working science staff to attend some conferences to stay abreast of the latest developments. Perhaps one or two a year, suggested one.

"Another scientist reported traveling 4-5 days a month to to give seminars, attend meetings and review grants and then said about CIRM's travel plans:

"'Is the travel necessary? No.  Useful for CIRM? Probably not very much.  Good for Bob and Alan?  Absolutely.'

"Voters passed Proposition 71 because they wanted to pay for vital stem cell research in California that the federal government would not fund.  They did not intend to send Bob Klein around the world as a stem cell research advocate."
Still undisclosed, as far as we can tell, are travel expenses that are not classified as "other travel."

Simpson has posted the documents in question on his website. Links to them are contained in his blog.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:51 AM

    This is way too much traveling! What bothers me is that it is so hard to get good funding for stem cell research. California voters are leading in terms of funding. It is very sad that these bureaucrats are wasting the precious funds on unnecessary travel (first class I presume).


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