Friday, June 18, 2010

Six Scientists Appeal Rejection of Grants; Read Their Letters to CIRM

Six researchers this week are publicly appealing negative decisions on their requests for millions of dollars from the $3 billion California stem cell agency.

The “extraordinary petitions,” which are available online, were filed in connection with a $30 million round of stem cell immunology grants that the CIRM board is scheduled to vote on at a meeting in San Diego beginning next Tuesday.

The petitions generally focus on reviewer comments concerning the science of the proposals. Some discuss value judgments made by reviewers. Some cite what the applicant considers are errors. One researcher notes that she is a Latina leader in bringing minorities into science(one of CIRM's aims is to increase diversity in the field). Another said that “certain key points of our proposal that may not have been fully appreciated by the review panel, perhaps due to lack of clarity on our part.” Another took issue with a reviewer's comment that the principal investigator did not have a “sufficiently strong CV.” Another pointed out that the application received a score of 67, which is two points below the cutoff line. CIRM board members have noted in the past that such minor numerical differences are virtually meaningless.

Here are the names of the scientists filing the petitions: Genhong Cheng of UCLAElaine Reed also of UCLA, Jeanne Loring of ScrippsOlivia Martinez of Stanford,  and Defu Zeng  of the City of Hope and Chih-Pin Liu, also of the City of Hope. The CIRM board includes members from all those institutions. However, they are not allowed to take part in deliberations or vote on applications of their institutions.

Click on names of the researchers to read their letters. Summaries of reviewer comments on all 44 applications can be found via this item.

Reviewers made positive decisions on 15 proposals. The board, however, can do anything it wants with the applications, although it rarely acts favorably on petitions. A number of board members are uncomfortable with the process, which is slated for a major public review in August.

Some of the scientists filing petitions are also likely to appear before the CIRM board meeting next week to make an additional pitch for their applications.

Interested persons can hear a discussion of the grants and the petitions during the meeting via an Internet audiocast. Directions for listening to the audiocast can be found on the board agenda.

Here is a link to additional reading on the appeal process at CIRM, including agency documents.

(Editor's note: An earlier version of this item incorrectly said that 44 applications were received and 16 approved.)

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