Nifty Web Sites Offer Online Communication Training

29 01 2011

The Web boasts a wealth of good sites for training in communication skills—from writing, to creating PowerPoint presentations, to making videos. And for most of them, the price is right: free!

Here are some of my favorite sites for online tips and training, and you can find links to many more communication-related Web sites in the references and resources section on the Explaining Research site.

Of course, online training can’t  place of an astute editor or a formal course, but they are an excellent way to introduce yourself to new skills and to brush up on existing ones.

Writing and editing

The World Federation of Science Journalists offers an online course in science journalism that gives a good grounding in the basics of the craft, World Federation of Science Journalists online courseincluding finding and judging science stories, interviewing, writing the story and reporting on controversies. And remarkably, the course is offered not only in English, but in Arabic, French, Portugese, Turkish, Spanish, and Chinese.

To train scientists to write more clearly, NIH has developed its Plain Language Training course. Although aimed primarily at NIH employees enrolled for credit, the site also allows outsiders to explore the course.

Also aimed at scientists is Bob Grant’s article in The Scientist, “Right Your Writing: How to Sharpen Your Writing and Make Your Manuscripts More Engaging.” It’s not a training course, but constitutes a good collections of savvy writing tips.

Explaining statistics in a meaningful way is one of the thorniest problems faced by scientists, journalists, and public information officers. Fortunately, the UN Economic Commission for Europe has produced an excellent set of  Making Data Meaningful guides. The guides, in English, Croatian, Spanish, and Japanese are

Public speaking

Although MIT researcher Patrick Winston’s series of “How to Speak” videos is aimed primarily at teachers, any public speaker will benefit from his wisdom. Here’s the intro video, which leads you through the series:

Also, the Wired How-To Wiki “Deliver the Perfect Presentation” is a handy introduction to good speaking practices. Follow its advice, and your talks will be immediately better. For more extensive speaking tips and techniques, explore the public speaking blogs


Just about every speaker on science depends heavily on PowerPoint for visuals, and here are my favorite sites for learning both the basics and some of the program’s neat tricks:

You can find scads of other PowerPoint tips, templates, backgrounds, and videos in the Explaining Research references and resources for the chapter on giving talks.

Beyond PowerPoint, there are also new Web sites that offer presentation capabilities well worth exploring. For example the presentation program Prezi enables speakers to create large “pages” containing their presentation, which the presenter can maneuver around during the talk.

ZohoOther new sites enable not only production of shareable Web-based presentations, but also foster online collaboration. These include Zoho, 280Slides, Google Presentations, and Google Wave. The last enables groups to share pictures, slides, graphs, and other interactive elements in one long chatlike discussion thread.


If you’re planning to create your own videos—or you just want to better understand what the pros you hire are doing—here are some good sites:

Finally, two other communication training sites well worth exploring are the Adobe tutorials on creating multimedia projects and Nikon’s MicroscopyU tutorials on creating dramatic microscopy images.

Making Pretty Good Videos Pretty Cheap

4 06 2010
Dennis Meredith in SciVee video

Click on image to view video

As video cameras decrease in cost, and video editing software becomes easier to use, video is rapidly becoming an integral part of research communication. To help researchers make better videos, my wife Joni and I created this instructional video for SciVee, which is the leading service for syndicating research videos.

Besides the shooting tips the video itself offers, our experience in producing the video can be useful for researchers and communicators.

First of all, we “aimed low” in our production budget. We strictly limited ourselves to the equipment that an average postdoc or student could afford, and tried to wring the most production value out of it.

The camera was a Kodak Zi8 pocket camera, chosen because it has received excellent reviews, costs only about $140 and is the only pocket camera with an external microphone jack. I learned the importance of having good sound in videos when I took the Izzy Video series of how-to videos. This and other tutorials make the point that viewers will tolerate poor-quality video if the sound is good; and even the best  video will lose viewers if the sound is poor. The microphone in the camera  invariably produces hollow, echoing audio more likely to include room noise and random mumblings of the camera operator. To capture audio via the microphone jack, I bought an inexpensive wired lavaliere mike for about $30.

The Zi8 does lack many features of higher-end camera, including selective focusing, digital image stabilization, and adjustment of white balance, but it worked fine for the Web-quality videos I would be shooting.

If you use a Zi8 or other pocket camera, here are some shooting tips from Izzy Video:

  • Since the camera is very light, it is easily jiggled when handheld, so if you’re operating without a tripod, brace yourself against something and concentrate on holding the camera still.
  • Similarly, the camera’s lightness tends to encourage quick panning, so if you must pan, concentrate on panning slowly.
  • Since the camera has only an autoexposure, you can’t adjust to properly light a particular subject in the frame, so arrange your shot so make sure your primary subject is adequately lit.

The Zi8’s lack of white balance adjustment limited lighting possibilities. I couldn’t use the inexpensive tungsten work light I had bought at a hardware store, since it made the scene look yellowish. So, we ended up shooting in natural light on our screened porch, and coping with the changing lighting as clouds passed in front of the sun. The need to depend on natural light meant that the resulting video shows lighting  variation within scenes and my image is a bit overexposed because of the camera’s autoexposure feature.

A stable image is another key requirement for good videography, so we mounted the camera on an old camera tripod. If you don’t already have a tripod, a cheap alternative is the small tabletop tripod that is available for pocket cameras.

Background is also important. The main background for our shoot was a dark blue blanket, chosen because it was  non-reflective and highlighted the “talent” (me). To add interest to the background, we hung an image of the book cover on the blanket. To make the image, we printed out the Explaining Research book cover jpeg file on 11×17 paper at a office supply store and pasted it on gray cardboard with a 1/2-inch border to frame it against the backdrop.

When we shot outdoors to demonstrate how to include background, I found a place where the woods in the background were in shade, but I could be in sun. With a more expensive camera, I could have used selective focus to  make the subject stand out from a background; that  is, creating a shallow depth of focus so the subject is in focus, but the background is blurred out.

To make the video more visually interesting, I shot additional footage at the Duke Lemur Center, which I used to demonstrate a cutaway. Similarly, when you’re doing a video, think about cutaway shots that will relieve the viewer from having to look at you the whole time. The cutaway shots can be of experiments or relevant subjects in your lab; but they can also be still images or video footage from outside sources. The Explaining Research reference section includes a long list of repositories of both free and commercial still images and video footage.

The need to read from the script presented another production challenge. I wanted to use a script to make the narration as tight as possible, but when I tried reading it from a page holder positioned to the side of the camera, it did not allow me to look into the camera when talking. The solution was to print out the script in a large type font and mount the pages on poster board set on an easel directly behind the camera. Since the large-font script took up many pages, Joni had to shift the poster board as I talked to keep the text in my eyeline, while looking at the camera.

In editing the video, I opted for the high-end package Pinnacle Studio 14, rather than the free editing software that comes with Windows and Mac computers. Those are perfectly good for most purposes, but I wanted to have the capability of more advanced abilities such as special effects, multiple sound tracks and still-image choreography. Learning Studio 14 was certainly more onerous than learning the PC or Mac editing software, but it was worth it for the additional editing features.

Overall, the whole shoot—camera equipment and all—cost about $300. And we plan to use the same basic equipment for other instructional videos. However, although we could continue to use the Kodak pocket camera, I plan to use a high-end video camera we own for its more advanced capabilities.

Certainly, the result is not broadcast-quality, and with experience I can likely do better, but it’s a pretty good Web video, made pretty cheap.

SciVee: Integrating Video into Scientific Publication

31 05 2010

Video is rapidly becoming an important tool for researchers—in documenting their experiments, in scientific publication, and in explaining their work to broad audiences. While there are many outlets for syndicating and sharing such research videos, of these outlets SciVee offers the most comprehensive set of services for integrating video into scientific publication. These include

  • PubCasts, synchronized video abstracts of peer-reviewed articles
  • PaperCasts, synchronized video abstracts of non peer-reviewed articles
  • PosterCasts, synchronized video of posters or conference presentations
  • SlideCasts, synchronized video of slide presentations
  • Video and podcasts, standard research podcasts and videos

Given SciVee’s prominence, I asked CEO Marc Friedmann to talk about the evolving role of video in scientific publication and SciVee:

What do you think are the significant trends in the application of video to scientific publication?
The use of video is part of a large trend toward rich media in publishing. Over the last 15 years publishers have gone from delivery via print only to a strong move on-line. We can see this with newspapers, magazines and scientific journals. With the increase in available bandwidth, standardization of formats and the dramatic drop in cost of creating digital video the journals and researchers are increasingly incorporating video and rich media content into their scientific content. We see this as the convergence of publishing and video on both stationary and mobile devices.

Are journals and researchers using video to maximum advantage in their scientific publication today?
Aside from not keeping up with reader expectations, the predominant text format needs to be significantly enhanced for knowledge dissemination and discovery given the explosive growth of content on the Internet. It is now increasingly difficult to find an efficient filter for relevant and interesting content by having to read a text-only abstract. Therefore it is more difficult for researchers to disseminate their work to the broadest audience in order to increase their recognition, impact and citation. Video is a proven medium to enliven science and scholarly communications by supplementing the text.

What do you think are the major barriers to using video in scientific publication?
Making a video used to be costly, time consuming and complicated. With good quality handheld digital cameras and webcams on most computers, capturing video has become straightforward. Free software comes included on both Windows and Mac computers that enables even novices to easily edit video. The techniques for making scientific videos are really no different than making a home movie. Research by SciVee has confirmed that a reasonable quality video—e.g., handicam or videocam—is acceptable to most readers. The scientific content is much more important than having a “NOVA-quality” video production.

What do journals and researchers need to understand about the value of video in scientific publication that they might not appreciate now?
Web 2.0 has ushered in the age of interactive rich media for all online interactions. Online visitors now expect and demand a media-rich interactive experience when they go online, whether they are shopping, viewing content, social networking or getting information from a business enterprise. All science publications and researchers increasingly must deliver such experiences to engage their readers and clarify the delivery of their scientific findings.

How does SciVee’s synchronization technology work, and why is it important in applying video to scientific publication?
The SciVee platform is designed to provide a video integration, hosting and distribution capability to researchers, journals and conference organizers to enliven their Web presence and satisfy their audience’s need for dynamic content. SciveeCasts (see example here) are a family of synchronized video products which synchronizes the video with the underlying document such as a journal article, poster, supplement or coursework. It enables a viewer to fully absorb the information, impact and context of a complete multimedia presentation by watching the video and reading the highlighted text and graphics of the underlying document.. It is a much more dynamic and efficient way to disseminate and absorb scientific and scholarly knowledge than a text-centric document, podcast or plain video. 

What mistakes do you most often see scientists make in creating videos, and how can they remedy them?
The biggest mistake we see is the researcher not paying enough attention to the audio when creating the video. They need to make sure that they speak loud and clearly enough. Also, the author should not speak in a monotone or the viewer will lose interest. And they should make sure that the audio track stays synchronized with the video. Even though SciVee has a video website, we have tens of thousands of podcasts downloaded every month, so there is  as good chance that an author’s research will be heard as much as it is seen.

What is the value to researchers and journals of having their papers associated with SciveeCasts?
SciveeCasts deliver significant benefits to viewers, authors and the institutions which use them:

  • Viewers: More engaged and efficient way to filter scholarly information for further in-depth study (Visual abstract function). Improved retention.
  • Authors: Promotes dissemination of work and recognition. Increases impact of work.
  • Journals: Higher traffic, article views and reader interest. Broaden audience base. Promotes work of authors/members and mission of institution. New services and monetization possibilities.

For journals traffic is the lifeblood of their online publications, and SciveeCasts have proven their  ability to drive traffic, increase article views and broaden their audience.  Some specific SciVee examples:

  • In the course of 26 editions in 24 months across 5 PLoS journals, PubCasts have recorded approximately equal number of views as the articles themselves, which effectively doubles the exposure of those articles.  Other SciVee journal customers have typically seen a tripling of the number of views associated with their articles.
  • A leading journal in the preventive medicine field published an article in April, 2009 and saw a total 1,021 abstract views through September in a very typical view curve over time.  By September, abstract views were under 50, and clearly dwindling.  It published a PubCast about the article in October and immediately saw a spike in abstract views such that by the first half of Feb. 2010, that article attracted another 620 views.  By mid-March 2010, this PubCast has garnered 2,290 views, far greater than the average number of abstract views of this journal.
  • On the company’s website, on average SciVee observes 12 times as many pageviews for each Pubcast as for a standard scientific video. Viewers like the researcher explanations provided by the PubCast, find them engaging and, hence, spend much more time with them.

Why not just use YouTube?
YouTube is excellent if you just need a place to host short videos. However, it is built for short, unfiltered user-generated videos rather than the longer, higher-quality videos associated with scientific and scholarly content. YouTube also does not offer the workflow, quality control process and metadata required by scientific publishing. Below is a summary of how SciVee is different and superior to YouTube in many respects:

SciVee YouTube
Focus Science Entertainment
Audience 75,000 professional scientists, researchers, educators and students. 1 billion consumers
Video  limit 1 hour+ of video permitted Generally a 10 minute limit
SciveeCast Video synchronization capability unique to SciVee. None
Supplementary materials Easy upload None
DOI/Metadata Each video has a DOI assigned and metadata associated with it that promotes further collaboration, indexing and citation which are required for scholarly publications. None.
Tagging Automated process drawing upon all relevant tags across SciVee. None
Workflow Easy video supplement creation & management process for SciveeCasts. None
Editorial control Flexible QA/peer-review process built in system. None

What about the expense involved?
SciVee’s platform and SciveeCasts are designed for mass adoption. Thus the video upload, synchronization and publishing process must be easy, fast and cheap. Authors can create and upload the videos on their own with minimal help from publishers or SciVee support. No special equipment is needed, the process is intuitive, and total time required is typically 1-2 hours per piece. All work is done on the Scivee site in a browser with nothing to download. The author starts working as soon as he or she is logged in.

For the journal, the SciVee platform is easy and economical to adopt:

  • It is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) where everything is done via a web browser with nothing to download.
  • There is no IT investment or administration headaches. It provides the service, journals and authors just use it.
  • The platform is standards-based, which means it’s easy to upgrade, customize and maintain, and
  • It is designed to seamlessly integrate into a journal’s publishing system and web presence.

How would a journal and an author work together in publishing an article that includes video?
The SciVee platform’s unique advantage is its simple workflow that allows journals and authors to jointly produce the videos as part of the article publishing process. This simple workflow is:

  • Create SciveeCast: The author logs into SciVee and creates the SciveeCast by uploading the video and article, synchronizes the two, enters the metadata associated with the SciveeCast, and leaves. The same process applies to plain videos only, without uploading or synchronizing of the article.
  • Review and Publish: When the draft SciveeCast is created, the editorial staff is notified, which reviews the content and approves it for posting. During the upload process, an author can edit all items of the video/SciveeCast except publishing options. The video/SciveeCast is locked down after it’s published to ensure integrity—changeable only by authorized editorial staff.
  • Distribute/Link: Once a SciveeCast or video is approved and posted, the journals and author should aggressively embed and link them to maximize distribution and traffic.

How the iPad is Inspiring New Publication Formats

22 03 2010

Even as it it just coming to market, the Apple iPad—and its tablet computer iCousins—is already inspiring designers to come up with dramatic new interactive publication formats. These dynamic formats offer both a challenge and an opportunity to communicators and researchers. Before a discussion of these new  formats, take a look at the demonstrations below to get an idea of the possibilities.

First, a Time, Inc. demo of what a tablet computer version of Sports illustrated might look like:

To see a more artsy approach, watch the demos of  the iPad version of the online magazine VIVmag featured in this New York Times Bits blog post “A Peek at an Interactive Magazine for the Apple iPad.”

Finally, look at Wired magazine’s description of its plans for an iPad version of the magazine.

So, what does this new  interactive multimedia publication format mean for researchers and research communicators? One the positive side, it will offer a platform for dramatic communication of science and technology. Imagine how stunning would be interactive multimedia  iPad versions of articles on Hubble images, genome structure or airplane design.

On the other hand, such  interactivity wouldn’t add much functionality to such research news sites as Scientific American and Science News. And it would certainly add more production expense, as the Bits blog post points out.  For example, each issue of VIVmag will cost $6, and the blog quotes the magazine’s chief marketing officer, Jeanniey Mullen as saying, “It is an expensive process…. It takes the same amount of time to create as a print edition, but we’re creating a living product that is fully dynamic.”

Also, given that tablet computers will not be ubiquitous for some time, it is certainly not cost-effective for research communicators to consider creating such publications now. There’s an old-time term, “play-pretty,” that people used to denote a shiny toy given a child. That term could be applied to these iPad formats. They’re not practical, but they sure are nice play-pretties.

However, as tablet computers proliferate—and as the production software tools come into routine use—these new formats could prove valuable for adding interactivity, drama and flash to the communication of research.

Communicating Research in 3-D Virtual Worlds

5 03 2010

Today you write news releases and feature stories, produce videos and podcasts, and use social media to disseminate research news; but in the near future you could also add 3-D models, interactive simulations, and immersive virtual environments to your communications toolkit. Given that we humans are naturally perceptually three-dimensional, you can imagine how such media could add to the impact and information value of your communications.

The major force driving communications into an online 3-D world is that important audiences are already there. For one thing, a survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that more Americans already get their news online than from newspapers or radio, although both still lag behind television. And another survey showed that more than half of all Americans play video games of some kind, undoubtedly in 3-D.

The education community is already using immersive Web environments, adapting existing 3-D interactive virtual worlds such as Second Life; and there are extensive materials on use of Second Life in education. Basically, the environment enables students to attend virtual lectures, move around in the cartoonlike world as avatars, and communicate with one another—frankly capabilities that don’t seem to add much value to the educational experience. Indeed, “the virtual world has not lived up to the hype,” writes Jeffrey Young in a critical article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. He reports that

Moving around in Second Life can be so clunky that some professors and students have decided that it’s just not worth the hassle …. If all you need to do is chat with far-flung students, there are many easier ways to do it…. Plus, a lot of decidedly nonacademic activity goes on in Second Life, and it’s difficult to limit access so that only students can enter a classroom there.

And while there is a new project called OpenSimulator that aims to improve educational uses of immersive environments, it still does not offer particularly new interactive capabilities.

Writes Young, “It turns out that virtual worlds are at their best when they look nothing like a traditional campus. Professors are finding that they can stage medical simulations, guide students through the inside of cell structures, or pre­sent other imaginative teaching exercises that cannot be done in a physical classroom.”

This promise could be realized by a new flexible open-source system called OpenCobalt. Watch the video below for an introduction:

As the video shows, the OpenCobalt environment enables users not only to naturally interact and collaborate with each other and with traditional videos and Web pages; it also enables them to play with 3-D objects and simulations in an engaging and informative way.

Users of OpenCobalt will not be limited to the usual keyboard and mouse, but can also interact with the environment using multitouch screens, as this video illustrates. To me at least, the authoring system —as illustrated in this video—is intuitive enough that designers can master it well enough to work with communicators to create effective interactive environments and other products.

“Wonderful stuff can happen when you move away from the page metaphor,” asserts Duke researcher Lombardi, one of OpenCobalt’s architects, in an article on the Duke Research blog. “We’re living in a 3-D world. We need to interact with each other and with information in 3-D spaces.”

Certainly, such immersive environment platforms as OpenCobalt are still in their infancy. And, there is an element of trendiness that leads Young to comment that “Maybe 3-D online environments are just one of those technologies that sound cool but never fully materialize, like personal jetpacks.”

But there does seem to be legitimate communications value in such 3-D interactivity. And, of course its flashiness can attract eyeballs. So, it’s not too early to at least begin considering how to use virtual environments to not only communicate research more effectively, but make your communications stand out in the tidal wave of information inundating today’s Web.

Duke Lemur Center “Path to Tomorrow” Project: Premier Example of Effective Communications

2 03 2010

The Duke Lemur Center is a contender in the Pepsi Refresh contest, in which Pepsi awards $50,000 to the most popular projects aimed at making a positive difference. The Lemur Center’s “Path to Tomorrow” project description page on the Pepsi site represents an excellent example of how to create compelling communications on a limited budget. First of all, there’s the video, produced by the Center’s advancement officer Lari Hatley and her videographer husband Jeff:

The video combines basic techniques—simple panned-and zoomed still images, punchy text, dramatic music, and stock footage—to create a memorable, moving message. The video illustrates vividly how ingenuity is the most valuable asset in creating good communications.

Then there’s the page’s descriptive text, which is concise and compelling. For example, the title is a simple, effective statement that the project aims to “Save lemurs by growing public awareness through a new tour path.” Notice how the very first words are “Save lemurs,” which is a grabber phrase—a lesson that should be heeded by any communicator faced with writing a headline.

And the bullet points for the goals also grab readers and inspire them to action:

  • To increase the number of guests to the Center by 50 percent
  • To create an inspiring tour path easily accessible to all guests
  • To build four additional state-of-the-art outdoor animal habitats
  • To prevent the extinction of more than 70 species of lemurs
  • To use lemurs to enlighten guests about all endangered animals

Finally, the Lemur Center description introduces the center in a highly engaging way, using words that captivate readers and describe the Center’s mission in human-centered terms:

For more than 40 years, the Duke Lemur Center has been a safe place for lemurs. Today we learn from and care for more than 200 endangered animals, and we share our passion for lemurs with guests. By creating awareness, we hope to inspire a future generation that will learn from and care for lemurs.

All-in-all, an excellent, instructive communications package.

And now for a confession/commercial: I’m an avid supporter of the Lemur Center, and I urge you to go to the Center’s project page and vote for their Path to Tomorrow project. And do it every day until the end of March!

“Dueling” Monkey Robot Videos Offer a Lesson in Communicating Research

8 10 2009

It’s rare that I get a chance to show vividly how  an ill-advised media policy can compromise communication of a piece of research. But two videos about development of brain-machine interfaces enable me to do just that. One video, below,  covers a story about Duke University neurobiologists using the brain activity of a monkey to control real-time walking patterns in a robot in Japan.

And a second video covers a story about University of Pittsburgh researchers using a monkey’s brain signals to control a robot arm, to enable the monkey to feed itself.

As you watch these videos, judge which one you think most effectively portrays the research and why. And guess which video received the most media play. (Although the research advances were both reported in 2008, I’ve just had a chance to do the analysis of their coverage.)

Both the Duke and the Pittsburgh research efforts are certainly important and newsworthy. But I think it’s fair to say that the Duke achievement–given the complexity of the walking behavior involved–is the greater of the two.

However, because Duke’s media policy severely limited what its video could portray, its research received far less media attention than the Pittsburgh story. Duke strictly prohibits any photos or videos depicting the use of animals in research, even if those images are central to the story. Thus, the Duke video could only feature an animation of the monkey on the treadmill, and not footage of the actual experiment. Not only was the animation primitive, but it was factually misleading. The “monkey” is anatomically inaccurate, looking more chimpanzee-like than rhesus-like. And the animation shows no evidence of electrodes attached to the monkey, leaving viewers to wonder how the signals got from the monkey’s brain to the robot.

In sharp contrast, the Pittsburgh video shows dramatic footage of the real monkey operating the robot arm to feed itself. The researchers cleverly  avoided complaints from animal rightists by obscuring the brain electrodes behind a piece of equipment. Also, it’s clear from the monkey’s behavior that it is perfectly comfortable.

Duke’s use of animation was also counterproductive in that it raised the most doubts in viewers, with one viewer commenting “This looks like BS. I’m not saying that it is, but the monkey isn’t real, the robotics footage is looped and shows feet never making solid contact with the ground, this may as well be fake as the stupid monkey.”

So, which video received the most coverage? Pittsburgh’s by far. Besides being featured on network news shows, it was posted on Web sites including BBC, PBS Online NewsHourNPR’s Science Friday, and Reuters. A subsequent video was also featured on the National Geographic Web site.  By contrast, the Duke footage showed up only on Reuters.

The New York Times did use videos in its Web coverage of both the Duke story and the Pittsburgh story, but the latter online story was made much more compelling by inclusion of its accompanying video.

But does it really matter that Pittsburgh’s research received more media attention than Duke’s? Yes, it does, given that media coverage reaches a wide range of key decision-makers, from donors to funding agency administrators, to legislators. And it matters because such media coverage also reaches prospective collaborators and other important scientific constituencies. Finally, increased media coverage influences scientific citations, as I discuss in the introduction to Explaining Research.

Duke’s refusal to depict animal research also has a broader moral and ethical dimension. In doing so, the university is evading its responsibility as a major research institution to emphasize the importance of animal research to medical advance—ironically aiding the cause of animal rights groups that oppose such research.

As an aside, an informal poll I did of major research universities found a broad spectrum of policies on depicting animals in research; but Duke was very much at the extreme end of that spectrum in its outright prohibition.

The broad lesson, I think, to be drawn from this case is that administrators need to get beyond their own expediency—perhaps even timidity—in setting communication policy. They should consider their broader responsibilities to their institution, its researchers, and science as a whole.

Great science videos need not be “professional”

12 09 2008

One of the hesitations many researchers might well have about producing video of their work is that they are not “professional,” in the sense that they don’t have a perfect command of shooting or editing techniques. But science and engineering have something on their side that regular folks do not — very cool subjects! Take a look at the Wired top ten amazing chemistry and top ten amazing physics videos, and you’ll see that very few have slick production values. In fact, many are downright amateurish, when it comes to titles, sound, videography, or staging. But they do show cool science.

Fortunately, YouTube and the science video sites such as are quite forgiving of newbies. So, even if you haven’t yet bought the top-of-the-line equipment or perfected your shooting or performing skills, pick up whatever video camera you have access to and start shooting your work. Practice makes perfect, and while you might not want your initial efforts to be seen in a national symposium, you’ll make a good start. And it’s only by shooting videos and critiquing your own work can you work your way up to top quality.

The online references for the Explaining Research chapter on video offer a good resource, as does the discussion in the book chapter. In fact, I’m jumping into the video pool myself, and I hope to have videos available soon.