Saturday, June 19, 2010

More Grant Appeals Filed: Yamanaka Invoked

The California stem cell agency has set another benchmark, although this is one that it may not want to trot out at international stem cell gatherings.

Eight scientists whose applications were rejected for funding by the CIRM grants working group and scientific reviewers are seeking to overturn those decisions at the agency's board meeting in San Diego on Tuesday.

It is the largest number of “extraordinary petitions” ever filed and amounts to more than one out of every four applications that were turned down. The total number of applications received was 44. Fifteen were approved. Some of the researchers are likely to appear at the board meeting and make a personal pitch.

The CIRM board has budgeted $30 million for this round of grants. Regardless of the actions by the grant review group, the board can do whatever it wants with the applications, including rejecting all 44.

The board, however, almost never rejects a positive decision by reviewers and rarely overturns the judgment of the scientific reviewers who evaluate the applications during closed-door sessions.

Yesterday we carried an item on the six scientists who had filed petitions at that point. Today CIRM posted two more petitions. They are from Husein Hadeiba of the Palo Alto Institute for Research and Education, Inc.(see petition here) and Joseph Wu of Stanford(see petition here). Both focused on scientific criticism offered in the review summaries. (All the summaries can be found here. Individual reviews can be found by clicking on the number of the grant.)

In support of his appeal, Wu cited remarks this week in San Francisco by Shinya Yamanaka, winner of the prestigious Kyoto Award, also this week. Referring to criticism of his application as having an “unclear rationale,” Wu wrote,
“We believe the 'unclear rationale' is actually a 'clear rationale' and is being adopted by iPS cell pioneers such as Shinya Yamanaka and his whole team in Japan.”
We also should note that the agency seems to be moving more quickly to post these petitions, a definite improvement over past efforts.

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


  1. Anonymous8:40 AM

    CIRM has to be very careful here.

    The 8 scientists who have filed extraordinary petitions are undermining the review process and challenging the authority of the reviewers.

    As far as I can tell, none of the 8 petitions makes a good argument and almost all seem to think they know better than the reviewers. They ask for funding because the reviewers didn't understand the science or because of their own ethnicity. This reflects very badly on these scientists and they are doing no service to CIRM or the stem cell community.

    Clearly this is totally out of control.

    CIRM should end the petition process and only allow appeals for conflicts of interest.

  2. Personally I think authorities should be challenged regularly. It keeps them sharp. Re whether the scientists know better than reviewers, they may. Some, in fact, have served as grant reviewers in other venues. However, there is no doubt that the appeal/petition process needs major work. A good start would be to post publicly the financial and professional interests of all reviewers.


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