Monday, November 02, 2009

CSCR Withholds Names of Terminated Grantees to Avoid Unnecessary Harm

The California Stem Cell Report is not naming the three scientists whose grants were terminated by the state's stem cell agency because doing so would unnecessarily damage their reputations.

It is our understanding that none of the issues involved malfeasance. Additionally, CIRM's progress monitoring appears to be more rigorous than the standards applied by the NIH, whose practices have set benchmarks in the scientific community.

Publication of the names could create erroneous, negative perceptions about the individuals involved.

We made the decision not to publish their identifies after discussions with a number of individuals, including two of the researchers. In our past occupation as an editor at a mainstream newspaper, publication of their identities would have been pretty much of a foregone conclusion. But given that we are no longer constrained by newspaper standards, some of which are very good and some not so good, we did not want to mindlessly do something that would unnecessarily harm the three.

We also asked CIRM director Floyd Bloom, former editor of Science magazine and executive director, science communication at Scripps, for his thoughts on publication of the names. Here is how he responded.
“For NIH grants, after the grant is awarded, one writes a 'progress report' annually in what is termed a 'non-competitive' renewal. For the duration of the award, the investigator is free to follow leads, change directions, convert personnel into equipment funds, and essentially re-program the proposed project. Only if the PI seeks to renew that grant must the changes be justified.

“In process described to us in June by Marie Csete, the scientific staff are in frequent contact with our CIRM-supported PIs, assessing their progress towards the goals they were approved to pursue, and for several of our competitions with stated milestones, assessing whether that progress will get them to their milestones. Lack of progress can be sufficient grounds to terminate the funding, and apparently those are the 3 cases you mention. Since we are kept blind to the PI names and institutions when we decide to award funding, I don't see that it is constructive to CIRM or those PIs to disclose names after termination.”

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