Communicating science in the digital era using video

06 August 2014| by Bill Hinchen

What’s the best way to connect with a scientific audience? How do we ensure our targets are interested in what we say, remember it and take action?

When you give a talk, particularly about science, do you gesticulate? I know I do. I used to speak about developmental biology and would always find myself trying to demonstrate to the audience just how the blastomeres move over the surface of the embryo during epiboly or other mass movements, and of course end up looking like a street mime!

The reason behind my often-frantic arm-waving is that science can be a highly visual subject, and conveying complex patterns of movement or interactions with words alone can really fall short of the mark. I can tell you that “convergent extension occurs here”, or, I can show you with an infinitely more informative video. If a picture tells a thousand words then a one minute video clip at 30 frames per second is telling you 1,800,000 words! This beautiful video from Harvard University, is a perfect example.


Arm-waving v2.0

The rise of what people often call the ‘YouTube generation’ is exactly what scientists have needed. Communicating science through visual media will leave a greater impact and impart more understanding than words alone. It’s one thing for me to talk about intracellular structures and proteins like kinesin and dynein ‘walking’ along filaments, or of DNA replication, or cell surface receptor proteins, but I think the message is louder and clearer in images. Fittingly, this is nicely illustrated in this TED Talk video from Drew Berry:


Scientists, show your work!

Scientists and companies now have tools like the Journal of Video Experiments (JoVE), where they can submit video protocols clearly explaining how their work can be replicated and their innovations advanced and shared like never before. How many times has a senior member of the lab showed you how to deviate from the protocol just enough so that you get better results? As a producer of lab instruments, tools and kits, how much more effectively can you communicate the benefits of your approach using video? And how much easier will it be for your customers to generate these results in their own labs by following your online guides?

When we write protocols down, we do so rigidly and often leave out the little nuances that can make all the difference. Thanks to the advent of video documentation we can now communicate much more effectively.


Access for everyone

With cameras in every smartphone and desktop video creation and editing software continuing to drop in price, anyone can now assemble movies and images using simple tools and achieve a reasonable end result for a relatively low price, whether they are working at the bench or are vendors developing tools to make science easier and more effective. For those looking to make video an important part of their marketing strategy with a more polished end result, specialist life science marketing agencies can help to develop videos that talk to the needs of the audience, capturing their interest and attention.


A global whiteboard

Tools and platforms now exist that enable everyone involved in science to share their ideas in new and exciting ways without (just) resorting to the scientist’s staple of arm-waving in front of the white board! There’s a huge audience out there, and video presents a fantastic opportunity to capture their interest and really engage with them on a global scale.