Wednesday, January 06, 2016

The Stem Cellar Named the World's Best Stem Cell Blog: Compelling Content, Commentary and More

The blog of the $3 billion California stem cell agency last month was ranked as the best stem cell blog in the world by the only entity that measures such things. 

The designation came from The Niche, a stem cell blog published by UC Davis researcher Paul Knoepfler, who on Dec. 22 identified the best blogs in the field for 2015. He said,

“The (top) prize goes to CIRM’s The Stem Cellar. While this is a tough choice (see more below on other stem cell blogs), CIRM’s blog has continued from year to year to step up its game. They post very often, sometimes daily. Their posts are composed of compelling content that includes reports on papers and other developments, but also commentary. I really appreciate the latter and that is fairly unique. They have also gone well beyond just focusing on CIRM-related matters to include broader issues for the stem cell field.”

(CIRM is the acronym for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the formal name of the agency.)

Knoepfler continued,

“...(F)inishing a close second was Alexey Bersenev’s blog StemCellAssays. It continues to be incredible. Alexey regularly posts on the more technical side of stem cells, regenerative medicine, cellular medicine, and more. StemCellAssays is a much read for those interested in this field from any number of angles."

Kevin McCormack, WAF photo
The California Stem Cell Report, which was on Knoepfler’s short list, asked the stem cell agency about its blog, its readership and how it operates. Kevin McCormack, senior director of communications, replied,

“It was very flattering obviously to learn that Paul had named us as the #1 stem cell blog. We’ve been working hard to make our blog as engaging and thoughtful, and fun, as possible and this was vindication that at least in his eyes we had succeeded.

“Our strategy is really quite simple. We look for what we think are the best, most interesting stories out there, and then write about them. Obviously we like to highlight stories about research we are funding but more often than not we’re just looking for something new, something fresh, something that sheds a new light on research in general or on tackling a particular disease or problem in particular.”

(For the full text of McCormack’s reply, see here.)

Todd Dubnicoff, CIRM photo
Karen Ring, CIRM photo
In addition to McCormack, three other CIRM team members write for The Stem Cellar, which posts virtually five days a week. They are Karen Ring, a former stem cell researcher, Don Gibbons and Todd Dubnicoff. The pace of postings is important because it is generally believed in the blogosphere that blogs must be fed often to keep readers interested.

Don Gibbons, CIRM photo
The activity on the blog has additional significance since CIRM’s home page is fundamentally static and rarely changes on a day-to-day basis. So the liveliness on the blog helps keep people coming back to the agency’s information where it touts its success. 

As for readership of the blog, it obviously draws attention from scientists and patients. But the audience is small compared to the mammoth numbers chalked up by big name blogs, which count their readership in millions. McCormack said WordPress reported 127,995 page views for 2015 for the agency’s blog. (For more numbers, see here.).

A Pew Research Center study reported last year that the number of scientists who are blogging is growing as awareness increases about the importance of making full use of Internet communications tools.

Susan Gunelius, writing on the ACI Information Group's Web site, said,
"Certainly, the more scientists who publish blogs and share their findings via social media, the more the public will learn about science from reputable sources. With that in mind, let’s hope that the number of scientists who are active on social media and writing blogs continues to grow!"
Here is the list of the other stem cell blogs rated highly by Knoepfler: the California Stem Cell Report,  EuroStemCell, ISSCR Blog, msemporda, Signals Blog, Stem Cell Assays, Stem Cell Podcast, Stem Cells Buzz, The Node.

Knoepfler, who has received grants from the California stem cell agency, reported that msemporda and Stem Cells Buzz are new to the game.

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