Dr. Alan Trounson, the California stem cell institute’s president, wants to revise the agency’s strategic plan. The effort is needed, but Trounson must remain true to the process that developed the original document.
Speaking at last month’s meeting of the Independent Citizen’s Oversight Committee (ICOC), Trounson said, "I’d like to update our strategic plan. There’s a new group of people here. The last time the plan was done was in mid to later part of 2006. I think there’s a lot of things happened. I think it’s time for revision and we are going to go through that."
The ambitious Scientific Strategic Plan for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) hammered out under the leadership of then CIRM President Zach Hall, certainly needs to be revisited.
One question that must be addressed is the rate at which CIRM can issue so-called RFAs (requests for applications) to compete for various grants it offers. By June 30 of this year the plan intended to have released a total of 19 RFAs. Even assuming the agency releases this month two that were approved in concept at the last ICOC meeting, the pace is behind the plan. There will be a total of 13.
The slower, more deliberate, pace could well reflect the reality of what is possible given the necessary reliance on outside scientific peer reviewers.
But while the plan should be tweaked to reflect experience as well as unexpected developments in science and the strengths of a new staff, it is essential that the the methodology in developing the plan not be scrapped.
Key to the plan was the open and transparent way it was developed. Hearings were held around the state. Seventy interviews with 73 individuals were conducted. The interview team even asked me what I thought. Strategic Plan Advisory Committee meetings were public.
I’m not saying the update needs to take as much, time but certainly it must have the same inclusive approach if it is to win the same broad-based support from all stakeholders that the original plan enjoyed.
And that deep support is key to CIRM’s success.