David vs Goliath in stem cells: the global power of blogs

The conflict in Ireland over stem cells is still brewing and bubbling this week as I’ve been blogging it.

It is remarkable to me that as just one person I have in a few days been able to have a substantial impact in that dialogue via this blog.

There has been a rather large push lately, especially in the past week, by the “adult stem cells only” crowd in Ireland to advance their cause via press releases and use of traditional media.

For example, the Irish Times published a piece on stem cells in Ireland that almost entirely regurgitated verbatim verbiage from the Adult Stem Cell Foundation of Ireland (ASFI). Rather than a news piece, it was really a propaganda piece.

A more balanced piece was found in the Irish Examiner, presenting arguments from both ASFI, which only advocates use of adult stem cells, and also the Irish Stem Cell Foundation, which advocates the use of all stem cells.

What does the Internet “think” of this issue?

A Google search for Adult Stem Cell Foundation of Ireland yields some remarkable results. While the Irish Times propaganda piece pops up as #1 in the search results sadly, the Irish Examiner piece is #4. Strikingly, two of my blog pieces (here and here) from this week are sandwiched in between at #2 and #3. I also posted another piece that is I believe #12 in the search results.

Thus, in just a manner of 4 days the pieces just mentioning ASFI on this blog have generated enough traffic and interest to be of major importance by Google, impact that is essentially comparable to those of two major traditional newspapers in Ireland. The Times’ circulation in 2011 was almost 400,000 and the Examiner is about 60,000 I believe.

How is it that a blog written by me can compete with these relatively gargantuan media businesses? The reality is that highly read blogs written by a single person can vie with newspapers for influence on specific topics.

Perhaps my pieces will fade in Google’s view over time, but the impact now is surprising to me. I take this power in a very sober manner and consider this a big responsibility. At the same time this tells me that even one patient advocate or stem cell researcher can have a surprisingly powerful influence on the discourse on specific issues.

Of course this power can and is used effectively by people on the other side of the stem cell battlefront. Many examples of powerful “adult stem cells only” blogs are apparent on the Internet.

No matter one’s opinion on issues such as stem cells, an indisputable reality of today is that blogs are quite powerful tools.