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OwnerEncyclopaedia Britannica
LaunchedJuly 12, 2004; 19 years ago (2004-07-12)[1] is a non-profit charitable organization headquartered in Santa Monica, California in the United States. It operates the website, an online resource for research on controversial issues.[1] The content of is produced by five staff researchers, and its stated mission is "Promoting critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship by presenting controversial issues in a straightforward, nonpartisan, primarily pro-con format."[2][3] It was acquired by Encyclopædia Britannica in 2020.

History[edit] was formed under section 501(c)(3) of the US Internal Revenue Code as a public charity in Santa Monica on July 12, 2004 by Steven C. Markoff, a Los Angeles businessman, who is also the founder of A-Mark Precious Metals and co-chairman of A-Mark Entertainment, a film production company.[4] In May 2020, Britannica Group, the company behind Encyclopaedia Britannica, announced its acquisition of[5]

The organization's first managing editor, Kamy Akhavan, was hired on December 12, 2004.[6]'s first appearance in the media was on June 6, 2005, when its material on medicinal marijuana was referenced by the BBC.[7][8] Akhavan was promoted from Managing Editor to President in 2010.[6] The organization's board of directors consists of Markoff, his wife Jadwiga S.Z.-Markoff, John Kurtz, Stanley F. Shimohara and Bruce McNall.[2] was acquired by Encyclopædia Britannica in 2020.[9]


233 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA, the building in which the office of is located

In addition, as of November 2, 2009, these materials were regularly being used by schools in all 50 states. Twelve international governments, 27 state governments, and many federal agencies have referenced including the US Dept. of Education, US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Office of National Drug Control Policy, and the Congressional Research Service.[10] In 2008, the Library of Congress archived three of's webpages as "materials of historical importance to the Congress and to the American people."[10] Its materials on medical marijuana have been used by such governmental entities as the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Congressional Research Service.[10][11]

On February 2, 2009, received the "Best Non-Profit to Work For" award from[12]

A division of the American Library Association voted as one of the "Top 25 Free Reference Websites of 2011" on June 17, 2011. (Other resources included on this list are WikiLeaks and Google Translate.)[2][13] As a result of winning this award, the organization was honored by Congressman Rob Andrews (D-NJ) in the U.S. House of Representatives.[14][15]


As of November 2013, the site covered 49 topics,[1] including such historically controversial issues as prostitution, illegal immigration, sports and drugs, insider trading, abortion, the death penalty,[16] euthanasia, drinking age, gay marriage, voting machines, presidential elections, the Iraq War, the ACLU, medical marijuana, the Pledge of Allegiance, video game violence, and the origins of sexual orientation. More recent topics include the 2012 presidential election, college education, Obamacare, standardized tests, teacher tenure, vegetarianism,[17] animal testing, felony disenfranchisement,[18] the gold standard, and man-made climate change.[2][19]

Each issue site contains collections of questions about the issue. After an introductory overview, the topic is then broken into subcategories and sub questions which are organized into "pro" and "con" columns.[20] The columns list the quoted arguments of different experts on that particular subject.[citation needed] For example, the drug use in sports section includes responses from Lance Armstrong, Gene Upshaw, and various scientists and specialists.[21] staffers assess each source, assigning a self-defined "Theoretical Expertise" ranking system to rank expert responses on a scale of one star (for lowest expertise) to five stars (for highest expertise).[22] users are encouraged by the organization to volunteer, donate, and propose new questions and topics.[23] An approval process exists in which the topic, core question, and 1-minute overview must be approved by both the Chairman and Managing Editor.[24]

Research projects[edit]

In addition to its collection of pro-con questions, develops proprietary research projects containing information on select subjects. In May 2008, published its "Fart Chart," which provided details on the dairy industry's greenhouse gas emissions from ruminant animals.[25]

In July 2009,'s chart "Deaths from Marijuana v. 17 FDA-Approved Drugs" was referenced in a CBS News article about anti-drug campaigns.[26] In October 2009, released a resource detailing the top ten richest US Senators' top stock trades in 2007 and the potential conflicts of interest that might arise from these trades.[27]


The organization's materials have been referenced over 950 times by publications and media outlets, including TIME,[28] the Los Angeles Times,[29] the Merced Sun-Star, ABC News, the Daily World, Courrier International, The New York Times, Press TV, The Washington Post, Education Week, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.[28] Akhavan has been interviewed by Pete the Planner, Minyanville, On Board, Fox Business, ABC News, and Voice of America.[28]

As of 2013, 241 books had referenced or mentioned in some way.[30]

Paul Krugman,[31] a Nobel Prize–winning economist and op-ed columnist, used in his breakdown of the U.S. Affordable Care Act in 2011.[32]


In 2010, the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction listed the site as a recommended resource for social studies. The website has also been listed as a resource by the Utah State Office of Education and Michigan Department of Education.[10] has been endorsed by the California State Superintendent of Public Instruction,[2] and the CA Department of Education.[33]

In his 2011 book, Michael J. Schmoker stated that is a useful website for science teachers, especially when teaching such subjects as alternative energy versus fossil fuels, cell phones and nuclear power.[34]

Medicinal marijuana[edit]'s materials on medical marijuana have been used as a resource by 12 governmental entities, including the Congressional Research Service, the State of Michigan, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Hawaii Department of Public Safety, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, the Superior Court of the State of California, and the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. These materials have been used in both pro- and anti-marijuana contexts.[10][28]


  1. ^ a b c "About Us". Retrieved 2012-03-26.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Background Resource". Retrieved 2011-08-07.
  3. ^ (2009). "". Archived from the original on 2012-05-18. Retrieved 2011-08-16.
  4. ^ Cassano, Erik (February 2007). "Banking and Finance: View From the Top". Smart Business. Archived from the original on 2009-07-13. Retrieved 2011-08-07.
  5. ^ "Britannica Acquires Leading Nonpartisan Issue-Information Source" (Press release). Chicago: Britannica Group. PRWeb. May 29, 2020. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  6. ^ a b (2011-08-15). "History & Highlights of, July 12, 2004 - Present". Retrieved 2011-08-18.
  7. ^ (2009-11-03). "News Archive 2005-2007". Retrieved 2011-08-18.
  8. ^ "US can bar medical cannabis use". BBC News. June 6, 2005. Retrieved 2011-08-18.
  9. ^ "Encyclopaedia Britannica Acquires". May 29, 2020. Retrieved December 10, 2020.
  10. ^ a b c d e "Governments that Use". Retrieved 2011-07-06.
  11. ^ Eddy, Mark (2010-04-02). "Medical Marijuana: Review and Analysis of Federal and State Policies" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-08-16.
  12. ^ "Opportunity Knocks Peoples Choice Best Nonprofits to Work For 2008". 2008. Archived from the original on 2011-07-30. Retrieved 2011-08-07.
  13. ^ "Best Free Reference Web Sites 2011 - 13th Annual List - RUSA Machine-Assisted Reference Section (MARS)". American Library Association. 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-11.
  14. ^ PR Newswire (July 26, 2011). " Honored In U.S. House Of Representatives". The Street. Archived from the original on October 14, 2012. Retrieved August 11, 2011.
  15. ^ United States House of Representatives (July 6, 2011). "Congressional Record 07-06-2011" (PDF). United States House of Representatives. Retrieved 2011-08-11.
  16. ^ "Should the death penalty be allowed?". November 4, 2013. Retrieved 2013-11-22.
  17. ^ "Should people become vegetarian?". October 15, 2013. Retrieved 2013-11-22.
  18. ^ "Should felons be allowed to vote?". November 5, 2013. Retrieved 2013-11-22.
  19. ^ "Should the United States return to a gold standard?". October 15, 2013. Retrieved 2013-11-22.
  20. ^ Sirois, Paula (2011-07-15). "List pros, cons before making big decisions". St. Petersburg Times. Archived from the original on 2011-08-17. Retrieved 2011-08-16.
  21. ^ Zarda, Brett (January 7, 2009). "What Counts as Drug Use in Sports". Popular Science. Retrieved 2011-07-06.
  22. ^ Knapp, J.A. (April 2009). "". Choice: Current Reviews For Academic Libraries. Archived from the original on 2009-07-13. Retrieved 2011-08-07.
  23. ^ (2011-08-16). "FAQ - How can I help". Retrieved 2011-08-16.
  24. ^ (2011-07-20). "Websites in Development". Retrieved 2011-08-16.
  25. ^ Draper, Dean (Dec 10, 2008). "The Federal Proposed Cow and Pig Gas Tax". Millard County Chronicle Progress. Archived from the original on March 11, 2012. Retrieved 2011-08-07.
  26. ^ Sprague, Elizabeth (July 15, 2009). "Pot No Longer Focus of Anti-Drug Campaigns". CBS News. Retrieved 2011-08-07.
  27. ^ Krigman, Eliza (October 17, 2008). "Lawmakers and Insider Trading". OpenSecrets. Archived from the original on 2011-07-05.
  28. ^ a b c d " in the News". Retrieved 2011-07-06.
  29. ^ Forgione, Mary (February 10, 2011). "Rare disease or not, Colorado teen can't have medical pot at school, not even a lozenge". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-07-06.
  30. ^ (2011). "63 Books Citing". Archived from the original on 2011-08-31. Retrieved 2011-08-16.
  31. ^ Krugman, Paul (2008). "Prize Lecture". Retrieved 2011-08-16.
  32. ^ Krugman, Paul (July 27, 2011). "Conservative Origins of Obamacare". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-08-16.
  33. ^ Slater, Pam (July 2009). "Nonprofit Educational Website Prides Itself on Lack of Partiality". California Department of Education. Retrieved 2011-07-06.
  34. ^ Schmoker, Michael (2011). "Focus: Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning". ASCD. ISBN 9781416611301. Retrieved 2011-08-16.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]