21 June 2019, Bessensap, NWO’s yearly conference on science communication will take place. Next to blogs, we increasingly see videos entering the science communications stage. But what is the added value of video for the public? And for the researcher?
Over the past years, we have seen the rising star of ‘the vlogger’. Everyone with access to the internet can immerse themselves in an infinite world of daily routines, make-up tutorials, personal development stories, and so on. Academia has (after blogging) also discovered vlogging and other possibilities video offers. The Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) for example, runs a vlog series in which students share their study and student life experiences. The Dutch Research Council (NWO) started a vlog series in which researchers who received a Rubicon grant share their experiences, such as moving to a new country and working in a new research environment. Next to vlogs, there is a rise of personal research videos in which researchers introduce themselves and their projects (see for example Scientist Wanted). This summer, research videos will become part of the Leiden Arts in Society Blog as well. In collaboration with SOON media we developed a new format called LUCAS explains to tell you more about our research.
Vlog 1. Lieke van Deinsen – De Verhuizing (NWO Wetenschap)
It seems that video has been discovered in academia as a medium to break down the university walls and have researcher leave their ‘ivory towers’. Video offers the possibility to disseminate knowledge to a broad audience but also to give a look behind the scenes, or to demystify ‘the academic’. It is widely accepted that researchers have the responsibility to communicate with the (wider) public about their research. ‘Communication is a two-way street’, says Arjan Dijkstra (kwartiermaker public engagement, University of Groningen): “If we only ‘send’ and do not listen, we cannot speak about communication (translated by the author)”.
Two-way street © Pixabay
This was exactly the concern of early scholars working on science communication in the late 1980s. Research was communicated in newspapers, radio, and television. However, the public was unable to engage with and discuss the information, at least, not in the direct manner that nowadays internet provides the public with. A foremost feature of video is its availability on the internet, yet blogs and online newspaper articles offer the same kind of like/comment/share/follow engagement. What makes videos so attractive to the public and what makes it a good fit with researchers?
According to Marije Dunning (producer LUCAS explains, SOON media) an important feature of video is the possibility to tell your story in a visual way. Often this reinforces the content (do we not all love animation clips?) and, as a result, will help to communicate a complex story. At the same time, in video it is possible to convey information and emotion at the same time (storytelling). This will help to captivate and keep the viewer’s interest.
Storytelling © Pixabay
Another advantage of video is that is greatly increases the possibility that the public comes across your research. Google will find your personal website with video content far more interesting and will reward you by ranking you higher in the search results. At social media channels, video content is shared much more often (up to 10 times) than other types of content (messages, links, images etc.). Thus, video makes it easier for the public to find out about your research and to understand your message.
Tim Vergeer and I were the lucky ones to work with SOON media on two pilot videos for LUCAS explains. I asked Tim about his experiences and whether he thinks research and video are a good match. According to Tim, in an article you can use many nuances and add extra details, yet in a 2 to 3 minute video that is impossible. This forces you to think very carefully about what you want to say? What do I want the viewer to remember afterwards? Once you know what to tell, you have to think about how you tell it. In the context of a public video this means, delete jargon and include metaphors.
Metaphors mindmap © Peter Durand / Flickr
You should tell your story according to mental images, but equally important are real images. The storytelling is what makes your video so attractive. How you tell it also depends on your tone of voice, facial expression, and how you present yourself. The latter is another important feature of video. Video is personal and will, therefore, contribute to your ‘personal branding’. Tim also mentioned that the collaborative process with SOON media was very helpful. They are not academics and therefore your ideal test public. Since the producers have to edit the video and make it a coherent and attractive story, they will ask you questions about the content. This helps tightening up your story, but also thinking about new or unexpected ways to communicate your research.
So Tim, what is your research video about?
© LUCAS explains, SOON media 2019
To conclude, I would say that researchers and video definitely have a match. I even give a Super Like.
© Picture; Pixabay; Icon made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com
 A Rubicon grant enables researchers who recently obtained their PhD to acquire experience abroad.
 Arjan Dijkstra, “Wetenschapscommunicatie is tweerichtingsverkeer,” interview by Sicco de Knecht, ScienceGuide, March 27, 2019. https://www.scienceguide.nl/2019/03/wetenschapscommunicatie-is-tweerichtingsverkeer/
 Cassidy R. Sugimoto, Mike Thelwall, “Scholars on Soap Boxes: Science Communication and Dissemination in TED videos,” in Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 64 (4): 663.
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