I wrote about this briefly in our nifty new 'quick blog' feature but I thought it merited more consideration so I wrote down some thoughts and you can tell me if I'm off base.
Basically, I read for the first time that we are considered a "conservative" science site. This was a surprise to me but the author of the article seemed like a pretty balanced person and it didn't seem to be a slur.
Still, I think we have been completely scientific, almost boring for our lack of controversy, but that is our mission statement so we can't really do a victory dance for sticking with our vision.
Yet maybe we haven't succeeded as much as I thought. Obviously I am not concerned about labels. It's the guy's blog and he was free-thinking and that's what people do in blogs so none of this has anything to do with him or the site he was using as comparison to us other than being a starting point to getting me thinking about science and the internet and whether or not a site can make it if it doesn't display the proper political credentials.
However, before I could really figure out why we might be considered a conservative site I had to determine what makes a science site liberal versus conservative anyway.
I always assumed conservatives would be ruthless business people in a capitalist enterprise doing whatever it takes to get ahead but we're not a corporation, we don't have venture capital funding, we don't have a sales force, our writers are not paid a salary - exactly the opposite of the "liberal" site we were being compared against by the blogger.
Maybe in the world of science the conservatives are the communists who work together without a salary and don't have deep pockets financing them. More likely we are simply a group of people who want to read and write about science without having politics introduced into it.
Yet if being conservative means we don't have venture capitalists looking for a return, we never have to think about what "sells" to our audience and we don't make science political, that feels like 3-0 in favor of conservatives. Actually, I am surprised more scientists aren't conservative, if that's the case.
To see if I could help figure out how we became conservative, I did a search on Technorati to find people who have linked to our articles. Links can always tell you what kind of people are reading you and believe in your work. I am not a political expert so the only 'conservative' political site I know of is National Review. They have never linked to us and, to my knowledge, have no idea who we are. Conservatives don't take care of each other very well, it seems. The two I know of that are political and somewhat liberal are Huffington Report and Slate. Slate linked to us one time. So we have one link from a somewhat liberal political site and none from any conservative ones.
The number one linked article is Sarda Sahney's poking fun of the Creationist Museum - so I am assuming the Christian Conservatives are not endorsing us any time soon.
One semi-liberal site and no conservative ones is hardly a ringing endorsement from either side. It feels like the neutral science we set out to create.
Yet maybe neutral science is not enough. What do we have to do to be taken seriously by readers on the internet if science isn't enough? Do we need to write anti-Republican articles to show enough liberal cred to get attention from those readers? More Al Gore jokes to get respect from the right wing? We were being compared to a popular site so if the mainstream among the science readers out there is far left, then the middle is actually far right to them. If so, are we doomed before we get going?
I don't know the answer to that yet. We had 200,000 people visit last month, which feels like a good place to be. So maybe we're not out of the science mainstream, after all. Maybe the science mainstream is finally veering toward us.
Liberal, conservative, we'll take it. If you want to write good science we aren't going to make you show us your voter registration card. Just sign up. We want to learn from you.
If you just want to read good science and don't want to think about politics, you're already at the right place.