Sunday, May 23, 2010

Stem Cell Grant Competition: Remove CIRM Directors From Appeals?

An individual connected to an institution with a substantial number of CIRM grants sent along a note concerning this Tuesday's examination of the appeal process for grants rejected by scientific reviewers.

The person, who must remain anonymous, said,
“All appeals of grants working group decisions should return to the grants working group. The ICOC (the CIRM board of directors) should NOT be in the business of hearing appeals to scientific reviews. The ICOC is not qualified to render an opinion on such appeals, and the forum is inappropriate for such discussions.”

“In order to legitimize the review process, the scientific review group needs the leading international experts in the field. CIRM should raise the stipend of scientific reviewers in order to attract the participation of the most knowledgeable and respected scientists in stem cell biology and research.”
Complaints about the appeal process for CIRM applications have rumbled around for several years now. Both the board and applicants do not seem pleased with the situation. We should note that rejected applicants would be expected to be unhappy. But for the few applicants who go public with complaints about the process, we hear grumblings from many others. They decline to speak out because of the possibility that they could incur the wrath of an organization that could severely damage their livelihood.

CIRM will never be able to satisfy all parties with the way it handles appeals. That is the nature of such a process. Somebody is going to have to lose out. But most of the affected parties should be able to perceive the process as fair. That means doing more than burying a notice about an examination of the issue in the CIRM Web site. Tuesday's review of the matter was not noticed on the home page of the CIRM Web site. It was not the subject of a press release. Nor was it even brought up as an "announcement."

CIRM has many constituencies, one of which is the research community. It would behoove the organization to listen carefully and AGGRESSIVELY seek out critical analysis of the grant appeal process from scientists -- in both business and academia -- along with constructive suggestions for improvements.

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