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Welcome

grandisleclass_klmckeeThis website is designed to encourage and inform students, teachers, scientists, and other science professionals who are interested in using video to convey information about themselves, their work, or a topic of interest. Here you will find video tutorials, tips, reviews, and other information that will help you plan, shoot, edit, and publish effective and professional-looking videos.

Videography skills will become increasingly important for the scientist of the future to keep pace with the rapid changes in communications technology and electronic publishing. As demand for more accessible and engaging science information increases and as competition for science jobs, research funding, and space in journals becomes more intense, those scientists with multimedia skills such as videography will be at a distinct advantage. 21st century consumers of scientific information, both technical and non-technical, will expect media-rich content, and science educators and researchers must be prepared to provide it.

Learn How to Create a Video

screenshot_iphoneWatch tutorials to learn, step-by-step, how to design and make a video to demonstrate a new method, produce an online lesson, record a screen presentation, and create other communication products. Tap the image to the left to see a tutorial showing how to shoot and edit a video with a smartphone. For more tutorials, see this list by category (or select Tutorials in the Navigation bar).

Now Available: The Scientist Videographer eBookThe Scientist Videographer Book

This ebook is a detailed how-to for scientists, science educators, and students who wish to make their own videos. This electronic guidebook was created with a new authoring platform to combine text, video, and other interactive content to facilitate learning. This ebook shows how to plan, shoot, edit, and publish an effective and professional-looking science video to demonstrate a new method, record an online lesson or lecture, create supplemental online material for a journal article, produce a virtual tour of a laboratory or experimental facility, to raise online visibility—and many other uses.

Tap here to see the media trailer. Read more about the book on this page (or select eBook in the top navigation bar).

Who Is The Scientist Videographer?

cameraoperator_cartoon_klmckeeI am a research scientist who has discovered the value of having videography skills in my communication toolbox—which in the future will be just as important as writing and oral presentation skills are now for a successful science career. I’ve found that video has not only expanded my abilities to explain and share my science with others, it has benefited my career in ways I never dreamed possible. To learn more about what led me to acquire videography skills and why I think it will be a critical communication skill for the scientist of the 21st century, check out my About page. See the links in Other Science Contributions for more information about me and my research.

My Science Videos

Mississippi River Flood of 2011

Public domain image (U.S. Geological Survey)

In addition to science videography tutorials, I have produced and published several peer-reviewed science videos as well as a number of other videos on various science and science-career topics. I provide links to those videos on My Science Videos page to show how someone with no formal training in videography, media, or science communication can produce effective videos to convey a science message. I made my first science video in 2008 and have since published about 80 videos (including tutorials).

If I can do it, so can you.

The Scientist Videographer Blog

For more information, tips, video reviews and general musings about science communication, go to my blog. Here you will find additional material and links to video tutorials and other instructional information. See recent posts below or select Blog in the Navigation bar.

mangroves_K.L. McKee

Recent Posts

Do Video Abstracts Increase the Impact of Scholarly Articles?

A recent paper published in the Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication by Scott Spicer attempts to get at this question. I’ve been waiting for someone to conduct just such an analysis.

Most scientists hope that their scholarly publications will be read and cited by others. The more citations, the greater the purported impact on the field of study. At least, that’s the thinking of people who use such metrics to gauge a scientist’s impact. Often, however, a paper does not begin to accrue citations for a couple of years after publication—mainly due to the lag time between the cited and citing publications.

In the meantime, your paper could be making an impact on colleagues and students who read, download, discuss, and share it. That can only happen, however, if your paper gets noticed early and is readily discoverable by those seeking information on your paper’s topic. Higher visibility may lead to a wider readership and potentially more citations. Although other factors play into whether a paper is cited or not, it definitely will not be cited if people are not aware of it.

One way to make a scholarly article more visible online is to create a visual or video abstract, which essentially acts like an advertisement leading people to the technical paper. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what a video abstract is, Scott provides a definition:

“a video presentation corresponding to a specific science research article, which typically communicates the background of a study, methods used, study results and potential implications through the use of images, audio, video clips, and text.”

So basically, a video abstract is a summary of a paper but instead of text, audio-visual media are used to deliver the information.

What are the Potential Benefits of a Video Abstract?

Video abstracts may have a number of benefits for the author and for the journal. Greater visibility for the paper and the authors is usually the reason journals have implemented this approach and why authors bother to make video abstracts. Authors who produce video abstracts also find that the video-development process helps them in their research by giving them a new perspective or by raising new questions. I’ve personally found this to be the case. A third benefit is that video abstracts can be claimed as a project deliverable or a way to meet the “broader impacts” criterion required by some funding agencies (e.g., the U.S. National Science Foundation)—thus enhancing a PI’s ability to acquire grant funding.

Do Video Abstracts Affect Usage of an Article?

I’ve suggested previously in this blog that video abstracts (and other visual media) can help to raise the visibility of a scholarly article. There are few data, however, to support or refute the claim that a video abstract will influence use of the corresponding article, evidenced by more views, downloads, and perhaps citations. Scott’s study provides a review of the use of video abstracts by science journals and uses one journal—New Journal of Physics (NJP)—to address two questions:

  1. Are views of a video abstract on a mass communication platform (YouTube) similar to views on the journal’s platform?
  2. Is there a relationship between views of a video abstract and views/downloads of the corresponding scholarly article?

The results showed a positive correlation between video abstract views on NJP’s YouTube channel and those on the journal’s website (r = 0.56, p < 0.001, n = 56) as well as a positive correlation between video views and article readership activity (views/downloads) (YouTube: r = 0.49, p < 0.001, n = 56; NJP platform: r = 0.76, p < 0.001, n = 56). Although there was a positive correlation between the two variables in all cases, it was not possible to say with certainty which factor was the cause and which the effect.

Most of the video abstract views occurred on the NJP website (51,476 total views) compared to YouTube (8,715 views), which likely means that the majority of users of video abstracts were scientists and students. I find the >50,000 video views of 56 video abstracts on the NJP website to be pretty impressive; it showed that a lot of people were interested enough to watch them (but I wonder how this compares to views of the text abstract—did people look at both text and video abstracts or did they mostly view the video?) Also, the additional views on the YouTube channel suggested that the video abstracts were reaching an audience that might otherwise not be aware of the research.

The article was unable to determine if posting video abstracts to YouTube raises the impact of a scholarly article. For example, although only 5% of papers published in NJP had a video abstract, a higher percentage (36%) of the 25 top articles (based on reader usage) had an associated video abstract. This result could be due to an effect of video abstracts on article visibility or could simply reflect the greater likelihood of an author of a top-ranked article to produce a video abstract. Popular authors may be more creative or may have a larger budget to support video production compared to other authors.

Are Video Abstracts Worthwhile?

In the end, we are still left with uncertainty about the effect of video abstracts on article visibility and its overall impact. I’m not disappointed, however. That effect, in my view, is not the most important motivation for creating a video abstract. I’ve found that video/visual abstracts allow me to present complex topics in ways that are not possible with text (or with static images) alone. Personally, the use of audio-visual media has allowed me to combine science information in new and interesting ways, which I find personally fun and satisfying.

Some physical and biological phenomena can only be fully appreciated by watching it; video provides an opportunity for a scientist to share their observations directly with a reader/viewer. Methods involving difficult or complicated protocols or instruments may not be accurately repeated without a video to show exactly how the technique is done. By producing a video showing the methods, a scientist can better ensure that other scientists can replicate their study (and hopefully confirm their findings) (see opinion piece by JoVE CEO, Moshe Pritsker).

In other words, video abstracts allow the author a greater flexibility in presenting scientific information and the reader an opportunity to explore a topic in a way they cannot with a text-based article.

Although authors are often concerned about citations, these only track impact of a paper on the scientific field. Citations cannot gauge the broader impact of a study on society and public understanding of science, which is also important. Freely accessible video abstracts are discoverable by search engines and thus reach far beyond the scientific peers of the author—to inform colleagues in other fields as well as important end-users of the information (e.g., resource managers, health-care workers, and the general public).

A video abstract can count as an information product separate from the article and may be an acceptable deliverable for a research project. As I mentioned above, such informative and accessible communications are not only appreciated by funding agencies (NSF), they can be used to document a PI’s past contributions to broader science communication in grant proposals.

For students and young scientists just starting out, video abstracts can serve to show off communication skills to potential employers as well as to raise their visibility within a scientific field and beyond.

Are Video Abstracts Credible?

In closing, I would like to address a common criticism of video abstracts—and that is that they are substandard versions of a peer-reviewed article. I have colleagues who question the usefulness or credibility of such videos because they are not peer reviewed. Others say that a video cannot possibly present scientific information in the same rigorous way that a text-based article can. I often get some variation of these comments during talks about science communication. Here is how I address these critics:

First of all, video abstracts are not meant to duplicate or replace scholarly articles. They are designed to augment and enhance the understanding of a technical article and to raise its online visibility. People usually read the text abstract to determine whether to download and read the full paper; that excerpt simply provides a preview of what the reader will find. The same is true of a video abstract, except that it provides content in the form of images and sounds that are not necessarily found in the text article.

Second, video abstracts usually are based on information that has already been peer-reviewed and do not necessarily need to undergo a second peer-review (although it is advisable to have the video reviewed for accuracy and other features specific to audio-visual media). In addition, there are videos and video abstracts that are peer-reviewed (see JoVE). Videos produced by government science agencies also typically go through some type of review, usually quite rigorous. For example, most of the science videos I’ve published were put through an extensive peer and policy review by the science agency I worked for before they were released to the public.

In summary, video abstracts serve a specific purpose and can be as credible as a text-based abstract.

Even so, video abstracts are still a relatively new feature in the scientific publishing world. Understanding how they affect visibility and impact of a scholarly article will require more time and research.

The bottom line for me is that video abstracts are a creative and useful way to add value to my research products.

References

JLSCMedia. 2014. Exploring video abstracts in science journals: an overview and case study. YouTube video: http://youtu.be/7t1pLfedLRY

Pritsker, M. 2013. The Scientist. News and Opinion. http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/38082/title/Opinion–Video-Saved-the-Scientific-Publication/

Spicer, S. (2014). Exploring Video Abstracts in Science Journals: An Overview and Case Study. Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication 2(2):eP1110. http://dx.doi.org/10.7710/2162-3309.1110

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