Wednesday, February 27, 2013

California Stem Cell Agency: Comparing the Critiques

State Controller John Chiang has posted a useful, side-by-side comparison of critiques of the $3 billion California stem cell agency, including the Institute of Medicine(IOM) study, along with the responses from the agency.

Chiang, the state's top fiscal officer, has additionally posted the initial remarks Jan. 23 by CIRM Chairman Jonathan Thomas before the stem cell agency governing board on his plan to deal with the sweeping recommendations of the IOM.

Regardless of one's opinion of the board's response to the IOM, Thomas adroitly handled the discussion and vote, not a small accomplishment given the size of the board (29 members) and the legal restrictions involving public meetings. Under state law, Thomas could not lobby significant numbers of the board in advance of the meeting. He was restricted to engineering the approval in a public session, which can easily take on a life of its own given the unwieldy size of the board and the necessity for public comment.

As for the documents posted by Chiang, he is chairman of the Citizens Financial Accountability and Oversight Committee, the only state body specifically charged with oversight of the agency and its board. The web site for the committee is the only location on the Internet where Thomas' prepared remarks and the comparison can be found.

Chiang's comparison chart includes not only the IOM study, but last year's performance audit and the Little Hoover Commission study in 2009. Missing, however, is the state auditor's report in 2007 and its recommendation that the agency seek an attorney general's opinion on whether scientific grant reviewers must file a public financial disclosure form.

Here are links to the various documents: Thomas' prepared comments, Power Point chart used by Thomas, comparison chart of various studies and the transcript of the Jan. 23 meeting during which the governing board approved its response.

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