Science Discovers Online Video and Social Media

Science Discovers Online Video and Social Media

Everyone is finding some benefit to using online video, even the scientific community. They're not really using it as advertising and marketing but more as a way to connect with the public in general and help them understand where all that research money goes.

For those that don't know, I am a scientist. It comes from my need to know how and why things work like they do. Both Mark Robertson and I have a Bachelor's in Molecular Biosciences and Biotechnology and I am also an alum of the NASA Astrobiology Academy program. So when this came across my desk I first asked why. Why should ReelSEO write about how science is using online video. It's not really advertising and it's not really marketing. Then I thought about it and I realized that it is in fact both of those things.

How is Science, marketing?

Scientists exist in that mythical universe where everything makes sense. We often see millions of dollars going into research and never realize just how it benefits our life. NASA actually runs a program called the Technology Utilization Program which is meant to alert the scientific community to available NASA technologies so that they may be used. They publish a magazine called Spinoff:

First, it is a convincing justification for the continued expenditure of NASA funds. It serves as a tool to educate the media and the general public by informing them about the benefits and dispelling the myth of wasted taxpayer dollars. It reinforces interest in space exploration. It demonstrates the possibility to apply aerospace technology in different environments. It highlights the ingenuity of American inventors, entrepreneurs, and application engineers, and the willingness of a government agency to assist them. And finally, it continues to ensure global competitiveness and technological leadership by the United States.

Even Arizona State University, where I studied, has an intellectual property policy and makes millions on patents for everything from genetics to psychology. But when millions are sunk into the initial research, especially in the public sector, taxpayers tend to be suspicious as they don't understand the benefit.

So with online video being the media du jour it's only fitting that the scientists eventually get hip to it and start utilizing it as well, and now, they are. There are a few sites that cater to this type of 'educating the public about what scientists do' including SciVee and ScienceStage. While both have other facets including collaboration, networking (profiles and friend/colleague lists) and media sharing.

Scientists have always had problems being regarded as super-cool rock star types who are doing some awesome things, but it's mostly because of lack of information for the general public. Even television is getting hip to scientists including crime scene forensics, quirky astrophysicists and paranormal types. In fact, almost everywhere you look these days there's a scientist. So why are they still lacking in publicity and visibility?

ScienceOnline2010, a conference, was recently held that talked about science using the Internet to encourage collaboration, increase publicity and raise their personal 'brand' awareness. They talked about not only using media online but also various other forms of social networking and blogging. It drew over 250 attendees, not a massive pull but certainly a good beginning.

Good video communication

Here's a great example of how cool science can be when made into an actual, professionally-developed video. I don't even live in California and yet now, I fear for Mark who does because of this video (Mark, time to move!).

Here's one my father showed me a few weeks back that I had to go and dig up on Facebook. At first you might not realize that it's educational, just a cool space flight video. But think about all the hard work, years of research and and thousands of hours or observation that went into that. You watch that 6 minutes, I'll go make a sandwich.

Bad video communication

Now the thing about some of the other videos I saw and didn't include. They had awesome titles like "Electron-scale Turbulence in strongly-shaped Fusion Plasma" which to laymen sounds like "BLARGLE BLAH Star Wars Photon torpedo Wookie Klingon!" Not very helpful is it? I watched the video because I was intrigued. It had no sound, no explanation and wasn't all that informative. In my book, a total fail on the communication side of things and could even work against what they're trying to do. OK, fine, I know you want to see the fusion plasma, so here:

Kind of reminds me of an old Star Trek film or a Doctor Who episode. Here's another really beautiful one with no explanation but it's all about a star going supernova thanks to a thermonuclear runaway reaction caused by hot ash breaking to the surface of the star and then causing multiple ignition points creating the star to rapidly expand (boom! supernova!!).

Would you get all of that just from the video alone? No. How did I? I'm smarter than the average bear! A study was done on how much information is retained when it is presented audibly, visually and both by OSHA in 1996. 65% of all information is retained when both seen and heard. I happened to read about the video and the research and so when I saw it I knew what it was. Well, something like that.

Proper Usage for Maximum Effect

The best way for Science to use video online is as a tool to demonstrate just how important the work they are doing really is. That will not only get people interested in it but help to keep it running because it's an expensive industry and it continually needs money. Monetization of research is just as vital as public awareness. When it all goes wrong you get urban myths like Tang (the powdered drink) was made by NASA (it wasn't). While that's actually a cool myth, not true sorry, there are many others that take away from the importance and impact that science has on society. By better positioning the science in front of the public you not only debunk the myths but  you educate the people. With online video being the powerhouse that it is, and will continue to be, it's only logical that Science on the whole use it to the best of its abilities. (Contact me, I'd be happy to help Science out.)

NASA Meets Social Media

Even NASA is upping the ante and has a whole page on how to connect and collaborate with them.It's full of links to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Ustream, myspace and Flickr - all social media.

They are helping to take science out of the laboratories and put it squarely in the face of John Q. Public (nice guy, met him once). Of note, is that they maintain no less than 15 YouTube accounts including the NASA Television channel (quite nice actually). There are other mainstream locations that also syndicate video content including Vimeo along with a handful of science specific places like the aforementioned SciVee, ScienceStage and ScienceHack, SciTalks, DNATube and Research Channel.

The Final Results

Science Discovers Online Video and Social Media

See, Scientists can be cool!

Science certainly lends itself to video, just look how many sci-fi films there are and many of those are based on some sort of science (kookie or otherwise). Sci-fi takes science and dreams of what might be possible. Scientists look at the universe and dream of what they might find in it. Science is important and if it is going to continue to do its job it needs funding and it needs to adapt to the times. Using video online is perhaps one of the best uses of some of that money in regards to marketing, because it could help to keep that money flowing in to the research institutions.
The Internet was a research project once...Science F-in' Rocks!
Go buy a scientist a drink and tell them how much you appreciate the cool stuff they are doing and watch some science videos online...if you're really ambitious, kick your political representative in that fat backside and tell them to stop stealing money for their personal Political Pork and to put it where it is needed. I will now step down off my NASA space flight-approved carbon nano-fiber soapbox and stop waving my laser pointer around. Sorry if I got you in the eye.

Thumbnail Image Credit - XKCD


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About the Author -
Christophor Rick is a freelance writer specializing in technology, new media, video games, IPTV, online video advertising and consumer electronics. His past work has included press releases, copy-writing, travel writing and journalism. He also writes novel-length and short fiction as part of Three-Faced Media . View All Posts By -

What do you think? ▼
  • lorrainegrula

    Great article! I must say Christopher looking at your picture sunning yourself no one would ever guess you are a science geek. Actually, I am too because both of my parents were microbiologists. Recombinant DNA was dinner time conversation! When I worked in TV, I did lots of science oriented stories. Scientists, and everybody else, need to use online video because it is the greatest thing in the world and you can do so much with it. Thanks for all the examples.
    Lorraine