February 23, 2024

Researchers fret over California’s golden egg

Despite their delight at California’s commitment of US$3 billion to stem cell research after November’s referendum, some prominent US scientists are worried. They fear that Washington could use state generosity as an excuse to slash Federal funding for the National Institutes of Health. The Bush administration is already under pressure financially because of the Iraq war and its tax cuts and might welcome the opportunity to trim the NIH’s budget.

If that happens, there are fears that standards might fall. “The less the NIH is involved in something, the less assurance we have that good ethical guidelines are followed,’ says Jon Retslaff, of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. Another concern is that state funding will be more susceptible to fickle public opinion. “I think there was a concern about promising too much, even before Proposition 71,” says Gordon Keller, of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. “My fear is that there are people who will try to move forward quicker than they should, and that could backfire very badly.”