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Directors of California's stem cell agency are being asked Tuesday to approve a request for $420,000 so the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) can hold its 2010 annual meeting in San Francisco.  Granting a dime for this would be a flagrant squandering of public money.

The request first surfaced at the regular meeting of the stem cell agency board, the Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee (ICOC), at its regular December meeting in Irvine. Members refused to approve the request without seeing a budget and supporting documentation.

Hallelujah, I thought at the time, the board has grown up and is showing some spine. It was also the meeting where members voted that the ICOC chairman Bob Klein's position is a half-time job.

The formal request will be considered at Tuesday's special telephonic meeting of the ICOC. It's signed by Irv Weissman, the Stanford University scientist who will be ISSCR president in 2009-2010.

The request projects a total budget of $1,518,000 for a three-and-a-half day meeting planned for San Francisco's Moscone Center. The request seeks $110,000 for travel fees for organizers and speakers. Another $250,000 is sought for "conference services, publicity and publication."

Here's my thought: Tell ISSCR to have a reasonable registration fee. They expect around 3,000 participants. At $500 a head, a reasonable amount for this sort of thing, they'd net $1.5 million. That's before they even ask for the traditional corporate sponsorships.

Does somebody think the ICOC is a bunch of rubes?

This much is clear to me: There is absolutely no justification to spend a dime of a nearly bankrupt state's money on this conference other than to inflate the already healthy egos of CIRM's globe-trotting executives who seem intent on playing on the world stage, rather than focusing on their mandate: Promoting stem cell research in California.

I can only hope the board will demonstrate its leadership and responsible stewardship of public funds that were on display earlier this month in Irvine and reject this unbelievable request.