What are the top stem cell websites and blogs in the world? Who decides?
Americans and people all over the world are inexorably changing how they get their information. While newspapers and the nightly news used to spoon-feed us the “top stories” in the news, their heyday is over and now most people get their news and information from the Internet.
When it comes to stem cells, why should you care about how people get their information?
You should care a great deal, because the Internet is not without its own bias and manipulation.
I think by and large Google is not biased in the sense of having a specific political or other agenda (unlike Facebook, which is planting anti-Google news stories), but in a more general sense the Internet can be and is “played” and anti-stem cell folks out there play it like masters.
Say a student is going to write a paper on stem cells. This could be a high school student, a graduate student, a college student, etc.
The first thing they are likely to do is Google “Stem Cells”. And what will they find?
They will find some good, unbiased sites with information on stem cells, but Google also plugs in a little News Block into the middle of the results that is almost always dominated by anti-stem cell postings.
In addition, almost always Google includes an eye-catching image to go along with this News Block so most people will read the anti-stem cell postings first. This is a serious problem. What it reflects is that the anti-stem cell forces out there know what they are doing and are highly interconnected. Once an anti-stem cell posting goes up, they Tweet it, they Facebook it, they email it, and in the end they produce a huge number of hits on that posting so Google bumps it up in their ranking. This does not always happen and some days or times the news block on Google is not full of anti-stem cell stuff, but most of the time it is. What do you know, today the news item happens to be about our own blog and the pressure some people are exerting to try to shut it down.
Anyway, if this student likes reading opinions about stem cells or just likes to read blogs, they might search for “stem cell blogs”, and this is where it now gets interesting and complicated.
On any given day, some of the top “stem cell blog” hits on Google are anti-stem cell blogs in reality.
These websites pretend to be pro-stem cell sites, but really they are about peddling their moral agenda. More specifically their anti-embryonic stem cell agenda.
Who are these anti-stem people and what are these websites?
We just did a Google search for “stem cell blog” and got the results listed below. (Results for this kind of search vary depending on your Browser and the particular day or time you do the search.) Note, that in the last year or so the Google results have gotten more encouraging from a pro-stem cell perspective, but there are still some problems.
#1. “The Stem Cell Blog”. Sounds impressive huh? No hint of anti-stemness there, right? This WordPress-hosted blog, called more officially “repairstemcell”, is in fact an anti-embryonic stem cell website. It is a Huffington Post-style blog that shouts its headlines out at you all about how great adult stem cells are and how evil embryonic stem cells are. Why is this blog #1? I really don’t know because the quality of the content does not in my opinion justify it. It must boil down to the length of time this website has existed, the sheer total amount of content, the number of other websites that link to it, and the number of hits it gets. In other words, this site is #1 predominantly because there are anti-stem cell people out there who work hard to make it #1.
#2. “The Stem Cell Blog”. Hmm, sounds familiar, doesn’t it? This is in fact not the same blog as #1 above, but is more officially called “thestemcellblog.com”. This site is a bit of a mystery to me. It has no “about us” or “contact us” kind of page. I can see no information on who writes it. None of the posts are signed or dated. I definitely would not call it anti-stem cell site, but why it ranks so high is a mystery to me. It does not seem to be updated very often.
#3. The California Stem Cell Report by David Jensen. This is also definitely not an anti-stem cell blog, but rather is a very up-to-date blog on the activities of CIRM.
#4. This blog you are reading now, ipscell.com.
#5. The Niche, the much loved, but now long dead (18 months ago) Nature blog on stem cells. This was an awesome blog, but why Google still ranks it so high I don’t know. Must still be lots of links to it out there.
#6. International Stem Cell Corporation Blog. This site is not really a blog at all, but is basically a press release dominated website promoting the company. I have no problem with the company, but why the heck would Google rank this 6th?
#7. Adult Stem Cell Research. It is an anti-embryonic stem cell site.
#8. Stem-Cell-Blog . This is an anti-stem cell blog. Their subheading for their website is “Pro-Life Pro-Stem Cell” but they are certainly against stem cell research involving ES cells.
#9. Stem Cell News Blog. This is not really a blog, but rather a news-feed website. It is not anti-stem cells, but might promote stem cell therapies that are a bit shaky.
#10. Stem Cell Foundation Blog. These are some of the good guys! I’m glad to see them in the top 10. It is the blog of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation.
Another blog that frequently shows up in the top 10 include Ben’s Stem Cell News, a newsy kind of blog that I like, but which I wish would allow comments. It is written by stem cell activist Ben Kaplan, who has done a lot of good things.
What I’m hoping is that as the real pro-stem cell community gets more aware of the importance of the Internet and maybe more stem cell scientists start blogging, more of the “good guys” blogs will show up at or near the top of the Google Search for “stem cell blogs”. It would also be cool if we can knock some of the anti-stem cell blogs, particularly the one now roosting at #1, down a few pegs.
Get to work!