"No, it is a standard, so it is exempt."
“As a former President of CIRM and Vice-Chancellor for Research at UCSF, I have what I hope is a constructive comment about the issue of conflict of interest and CIRM indirect cost rates.
James Harrison's response to your question about conflict of interest of ICOC institutional representatives who vote on their own indirect costs may be correct by the rules of CIRM, but this voting arrangement constitutes a fundamental conflict by any reasonable standard. Institutional representatives on the ICOC are now disqualified from voting on CIRM grant applications from their own institution. In these instances, most of the money – the direct costs – goes to the investigator, rather than to administrative or infrastructure costs, and, in any case, the total amount is small compared to the overall institutional budget. In contrast, indirect costs rates are much more important for the institution, as they apply to all CIRM grants that an institution receives and all of the money goes to the administration for research support. Because it is so important, research institutions spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to negotiate the best possible indirect cost rate with the federal government. In contrast, for CIRM grants, institutional representatives do not negotiate but actually vote on the size of their own indirect cost rate. By sitting on both sides of the table, they undermine the integrity of the whole process.
As a former administrator at a California university, I know how important the indirect cost rate is for a research institution. I thus strongly support a rate of 20% on CIRM grants, a rate which is still below the cost of research support at most institutions. Nevertheless, I believe it is a mistake to allow institutional representatives to vote on the rates. This kind of conflict of interest, permitted by the current rules, is exactly what has provoked repeated criticism of the CIRM board structure. In my view, research institutions should make their case to the board and to the public, like any other recipient of CIRM funds, but their representatives should then be disqualified from voting. To increase the confidence of the public in the process, they might consider removing themselves voluntarily from the vote, if not compelled by law.”