Monday, December 03, 2012

Update on Move To Curb Researcher Appeals at California Stem Cell Agency

Directors of the $3 billion California stem cell agency are still mulling details of changes in their free-wheeling and sometimes emotional appeals process for grant applications that are rejected by the agency's reviewers.

A special task force of directors met last week for the second time to discuss the likely alterations. Kevin McCormack, spokesman for the agency, said the group made no decisions. Another meeting will be held later at a date to be determined. The task force's recommendations will then go before the full board, probably in late January.

McCormack said members of the panel have asked for “more details regarding the process that would be employed if the appeals and extraordinary petition processes were merged.”

The agency has an odd, bifurcated appeals process. Early in its existence, the agency said appeals of reviewer decisions could be based only on conflicts of interest. However, researchers have a right under state law to speak to the governing board in public on any issue whatsoever. As some researchers began to use that avenue to ask for reconsideration of their applications, the CIRM board created what it called “extraordinary petitions” in an effort to control the process and limit appeals. Both the “appeals” and “extraordinary petitions” are, in fact, appeals but on different grounds and employing different mechanisms.

The task force was created in September after directors complained about “arm-twisting” and “emotionally charged presentations” in connection with a record number of appeals earlier this year.

Here is a link to an item about the task force's first meeting. Here is a link to an agency summary of the task force's deliberations prior to last week's meeting. The transcript of the session should be available on the CIRM web site within the next two weeks. It will be found under the meetings section of the web and then under the heading for the task force's November session.

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