National Academy of Sciences Bans Public From Stem Cell Research Mtg

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 25, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

National Academy of Sciences Bans Public From Stem Cell Research Mtg Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 25
, 2007

Irvine, CA ( — After the California Supreme Court ruled that the state’s stem cell research firm is following all of the state’s public accountability laws, watchdog groups say the problems are continuing. Now they are having a hard time getting the National Academy of Sciences to open their meetings to the public.

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights says NAS recently barred the public from a meeting of representatives of state public stem cell research programs at the National Academies’ Beckman Center in Irvine.

John Simpson, a spokesman for the consumer group, arrived late in the day intending to attend Wednesday’s final session.

As the meeting reconvened after a break, Fran Sharples, National Academy of Sciences Board on Life Sciences Director, told him it was a "private meeting of the National Academy of Sciences" and he had to leave.

"Frankly the process smacks of the paternalistic ‘trust-us-we-know-best’ attitude too often displayed by a self-perpetuating bureaucracy supposedly acting in the interest of science," Simpson wrote in a letter to the president and the executive officer of NAS.

According to a statement Simpson provided, he said that "such an attitude is a disservice to both the public and scientists."

The two-day meeting of representatives from 10 state stem cell programs is intended to create the Interstate Alliance for Stem Cell Research.

The meeting was an outgrowth of a similar session in Connecticut in March. Among the goals of the California meeting were creating opportunities for collaboration among different states’ stem cell programs and harmonizing regulations from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

"When the public is shut of the process, we can only wonder what is being done behind closed doors," wrote Simpson. "For instance, in the quest to ‘harmonize’ regulations between states will only the lowest common denominator in regulations be adopted?"

Any meetings of representatives of public agencies held under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences need to be open to the public, Simpson said.

"As I told Ms. Sharples, I was flabbergasted," Simpson said. "particularly when I had been invited to the original meeting in Connecticut, but was unable to attend because of other commitments. What could possibly be going on in secret in Irvine that I wasn’t allowed to witness?"

Read Simpson’s letter to National Academy of Sciences President Ralph J. Cicerone and Executive Officer E. William Colglazier here.