The information presented on our sites is intended for the public, policy makers, the media, scholars, scientists, and students. It is not represented as science, but rather as a compilation of the best Pro, Con, or General Reference responses we can find on each site's core question and related issues.
3. Diversity of Responses:
Our Questions were and are developed by researching the topics, contacting related experts and organizations, and receiving feedback and ideas from readers. The questions are intended to thoroughly explore the core question and related issues.
We encourage readers to send us more or better questions, responses, and information that are more specific, more direct, and/or have better sources than those posted.
Questions, including core questions, are worded deliberately so that a Pro response is generally considered to be Pro the topic and a Con response is generally considered to be Con the topic.
4. Theoretical Expertise Rankings:
As we work for a diversity of responses, if we receive two similar responses to a question from two equally credible sources (for example, both 3-stars), then we will generally give the posting to the respondent who has fewer other responses posted on our sites.
We normally post up to 5 Pro and 5 Con comments per question. All comments are intended to be relevant, responsive, clear, concise, and properly sourced.
We have less interest in political or emotional statements than factual ones or well-formed opinions, but we sometimes post them if we feel they are particularly interesting, relevant, or thought provoking.
Although many readers want the most recent quotes and resources, we sometimes add older statements for historical perspective and other reasons.
5. Quotes from Individuals & Organizations:
Evaluating the credibility of one person's statements is difficult if not impossible, especially without knowing, for example, each person's background, training, affiliations, education, or experience.
We have therefore built theoretical expertise rankings for each ProCon.org website to help differentiate the theoretical expertise of the various sources on our sites. We have customized the star categories to each of our sites' specific content because of their different subject matter.
The Medical Marijuana site lists physicians as 4-star "KEY EXPERTS," while other sites may not even have the "Key Expert" category.
Ambassadors or diplomats to the Middle East might be 3-star "Experts" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but probably not in the Medical Marijuana issue.
Therefore, to better understand our theoretical expertise ranking of the contributors to each site, visit that site's Theoretical Expertise Rankings page.
The Theoretical Expertise Rankings system is designed as a simple way to gauge the theoretical credibility of the responses received, although we note that sometimes, for example, a 1-star source ( ) may be better informed or more credible than a 5-star ( ) source.
Arguably, the expertise rankings have been the most difficult part of ProCon.org's presentation, in part because we have tried to make it an easy to use and useful tool for subjective and complicated questions.
Our theoretical expertise rankings are based upon the following premises:
- The courts and many people equate a level of education and knowledge with a person's theoretical expertise.
- Although ProCon.org doesn't have the resources to make complex evaluations of the expertise of each contributor to our website and such an evaluation would still contain a fair amount of subjectivity, we believe our theoretical ranking is more desirable than no ranking at all, and that it should be accurate at least 80% of the time.
Some have questioned, for instance, why we have chosen to give government reports our highest rating of five stars.
Our thinking is that government facts and statistics are generally reliable. However, what is less reliable, hence our lower rating, is when government personnel attempt to quote from such facts out of context, or worse when they misuse those facts on purpose or by accident.
For example, we generally would give our highest rating, five stars, to a government report saying that there have been 52,850 killed in auto accidents in a given time period, but we would consider it less credible for a government employee to say in a speech, “Fifty-thousand people died last year in auto accidents.” The government employee would probably receive one, three, or possible four stars, depending on the person's education and position.
We usually don't rank organizations anything other than 1-star because they are often dynamic and composed of a myriad of influences, making a ranking difficult and partially subjective.
When we do rank organizations higher -- such as the New York Times (which we rate as 2-star) -- and, when that organization prints an editorial, a quote from that editorial would carry a 2-star rating. However, if that same organization quotes an individual who we believe should be rated a 1, 3 or 4 star, that quote would carry a 1, 3 or 4 star rating.
Contributors who request that their name be withheld from their responses will be posted as anonymous. We discourage anonymous submissions because they cannot be rated on our Theoretical Expertise Rankings page.
6. Seeking Clarification:
The quotes listed in our biographies are responses to the core question posted on each topic's homepage. We contacted the individuals and organizations' principals (or spokespersons) or found a quote in a mainstream publication that answers the question. We show the dates of the quotes so the reader can put them in a historical context.
The website researcher and Managing Editor may accurately apply individual and organization’s statements to either the Pro side or the Con side, despite the author's personal opinion.
When someone has changed his/her views on a topic, we will retain the quote used on the website and mention the position change [in a bracketed red Editor’s Note] along with the date and source reflecting the change. In some cases, we will post a Pro and a Con statement reflecting both the current and prior positions if they are both deemed especially relevant to the question being asked.
7. Editing Quotes:
When we receive responses to our questions, we generally send an email clarifying the questions to which we understood they responded. We may ask clarifying follow-up questions in an effort to keep the comments on point and clear.
For example, if a respondent claims "studies" prove a certain point, we will generally ask that source to clarify which studies he/she was referring to.
We may also ask respondents pointed and leading questions, or play "devil's advocate" in an effort to clarify or simplify the responses, Pro or Con.
"Exact Quotes" are shown in italics within double quotation marks.
Omissions are shown with ellipses (...); words added to quotes, usually for context, are shown with square brackets [words].
When someone writes to suggest that we review particular studies or articles, we will normally ask for the exact comments they think are suitable for specific questions so we can more efficiently find and review them.
10. Editorial Commentary on Accuracy / Honesty:
While those working at ProCon.org have biases like most people, we work hard to keep bias off our sites. If you perceive bias on any of our sites, let us know so we can immediately address your concerns, and importantly, have a chance to correct any bias.
Additionally, we have made some graphic design decisions, such as pro v. con, red v. green, left column v. right column, and other distinctions. While some may consider that some of these choices suggest bias to one side or the other (for example, that a column on the left suggests the political "left"), any such perceived bias is unintended.
11. Editorial Discretion:
Although many people and organizations are occasionally careless or intentionally misleading with facts, data, and communications, we at ProCon.org believe that government and their officials should always disseminate accurate and truthful information (with the arguable exception of real national security needs).
The site's Editor will therefore comment when we believe that information put out by government officials or organizations is false, misleading, or erroneous.
We will also comment in those few cases when the contributor believes that the information they are contributing should appear to others as having the opposite view as a plain reading of the material would seem to suggest.
We don't comment on information that may be slanted, biased, or not clearly valid.
All comments by the site's Editor will be noted in red in this format:
[Editor's Note: The government report is based on the testimony of a physician whose license to practice medicine was revoked within six months of the report's release. 12/30/05]
12. Comments Invited:
We reserve editorial discretion in determining what materials are put on and taken off our sites. All policies are subject to change and exceptions that can be approved by ProCon.org's Managing Editor or President.
We invite comments on how to make our Methodology & Policies better, clearer, and more evenhanded.
[On January 29, 2007 ProCon.org decided not to continue its Distinguished Contributor Award program. Click here for an explanation and details.]