Monday, June 21, 2010

CIRM Challenged by Nine Scientists on Negative Grant Decisions

A ninth researcher has filed a petition to overturn a negative decision on a grant application scheduled to be considered at a meeting tomorrow of the board of the $3 billion California stem cell agency.

The scientist is Judith Shizuru, the third applicant from Stanford to seek reconsideration of an application in the $30 million immunology round. Forty-four applications were filed. Fifteen were approved by the CIRM Grants Working Group. Nearly one-third of those rejected have now appealed the actions.

Regardless of the decisions by the grant review group, the CIRM board can do as it pleases with applications. However, it has been loath to overturn reviewer decisions. A number of board members are uncomfortable with the entire appeal process, including public appeals by scientists at its meetings. Nonetheless, some researchers have been successful.

In addition to Shizuru, here are the the names of the others who have submitted what CIRM calls “extraordinary petitions:” Olivia Martinez and Joseph Wu, both of Stanford; Defu Zeng and Chih-Pin Liu, both of the City of Hope; Genhong Chen and Elaine Reed, both of UCLA;  Jeanne Loring of Scripps, and Husein Hadeiba of the Palo Alto Institute for Research and Education, Inc.

With the exception of Hadeiba, all the institutions of the scientists have members on the 29-person CIRM board. However, they are barred from taking part in discussion of or voting on the grants in question.

An anonymous comment filed on one of our earlier items on the petitions said the "situation is out of control." The comment also declared that the researchers "are undermining the review process and challenging the authority of the reviewers."

Links to all the petitions letters can be found on the agenda for the CIRM board meeting. The summaries of the reviewers' comments can be found here. Click on the number of the grant to read the summary.

Here are two earlier items we wrote on the petitions: "Yamanaka Invoked" and "Six Scientists."

(Editor's note: An earlier version of this item incorrectly said the applications totalled 45 and that 16 were approved.)


  1. Jeanne Loring8:26 AM

    This is the first time I've submitted a petition, although my grant applications have been right on the border (and unfunded) before. If I'd known that 8 others would file, I would have thought better of it.
    But I want to comment on what I think is the reason behind the rush of petitions. I don't think the intention of any of the petitioners was to subvert the review system. Grant applicants who are used to the NIH system expect to have a chance to revise and resubmit their applications in response to the reviewers' critiques. I know that review committees are not offended by this, because I've served on many. In fact, in the last few years, the best strategy for getting an NIH grant funded was to re-submit revised proposals TWICE. The third submissions (called "A2") had a much higher rate of success than the first submissions!
    I know that this was not the purpose of the petition system, but because of this NIH system, applicants are poised to respond to the reviewers' critiques, and mean no offense to the reviewers.
    Jeanne Loring

  2. Anonymous10:50 AM


    The CIRM extraordinary petitions are not at all similar to simply resubmitting an NIH grant. I don't think that's a valid comparison.

    NIH also has an appeal process that is more akin to the CIRM petition process, but almost no one uses the NIH appeal process because I think it is considered bad form and is almost never successful.

    Also, when scientists resubmit grants to NIH,they do not challenge the reviewers in the way that a lot of these extraordinary petitions have been doing. Instead, NIH resubmissions go to extreme lengths to be polite and not call out reviewers for making mistakes or missing things.

    It's true that some CIRM grant applicants may be used to the NIH system where you get 2 chances (not 3 anymore), but they should know that is not how the CIRM system works and respect that.

    If 1/3 of CIRM applicants file petitions every time and many of those challenge the reviewers, the system is going to break down.


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