Using videos to communicate research
18th October 2022 at 7:00 am
From our recent post on the use of social media in EU-funded projects, among other hints and experience sharing, you learned that communication is at the heart of our society. As humans, we are “essentially an animal that tells stories” whereby telling stories was the traditional way that societies passed on ideas and information, also to educate one another. Words are not the only significant tool for transferring knowledge. Did you know that 65% of the global population are visual learners and that people can remember more than 2000 pictures with at least 90% of accuracy? If not already done, this knowledge should make visual communication an important part of your project’s outreach strategy. Do you incorporate data visualisation into your research practice or include pictures when posting on social media about scientific achievements? That is a good start but with this post, we will focus on the visual communication mean that has thrived in recent years and gets more and more recognition also in EU-funded projects – online videos. Video consumption is the most rapidly growing area of mass communication of the new digital technologies and according to CISCO’s Visual Networking Index online video now constitutes over 75% of all global Internet traffic. Moreover, new mobile technologies are creating dramatic shifts in the ways that video-based content can be produced, consumed and delivered, making “science storytelling” easier than ever before.
Why use videos to communicate your research?
The shift to video consumption offers a considerable opportunity to use audio-visual content in science communication in very resource-effective and far-reaching ways. Videos can be used to raise awareness, document research, introduce project partners, share new scientific methodologies, showcase results and more. Videos have the power to engage people in ways that are different from the written word, as they create a particular form of intimacy, a kind of immersive experience that visually transports people to places and situations they might otherwise never experience. This advantage that video has in storytelling makes the audience potentially more involved and willing to take actions, which ultimately can help not only to promote your project but also to increase the visibility of EU funding. While being contractual obligations of the Grant Agreement for EU-funded projects, both extensive promotion and enhanced visibility can be attained with one tool, yet in very distinctive ways.
What kind of videos should you use?
There are as many different kinds of videos as stories to be told, but there are audio-visual forms that serve science communication and research projects in particular better than others. So, before you jump into the production of your first audio-visual story, have a look at the most common video types for research projects. Our communications team has put together an overview of suggested video types that effectively promote the project and help engage a wide range of stakeholders, from the scientific community, policymakers and funding agencies to industry representatives, end-users and the broader non-expert audience:
1. Video abstract
Research requires persistence and often formulating results for publication takes months of work. Why not use this time also to record the video abstract? It can complement your paper or provide insights into your work not only to fellow researchers but also to other audiences. Similarly to a standard article abstract, video abstracts typically cover key information on the background of the article’s study, methods used, results and discussion of impact. However, video abstracts extend the possible reach by providing the author with a platform to communicate their research through a low-barrier, personalised, media-rich medium, in ways that would have been impossible in the print environment.
2. Explanatory video
Complex scientific issues to be understood by non-experts often require translation to the language that the general public operates with on a daily basis. With explanatory video, the focus lies on the “translation” part in which reaching out to “life examples” is the way to go. The most common format for an explanatory video is animation, which proves to be effective in explaining complex information. Scientific and technological processes can involve invisible elemental reactions and natural phenomena. Animation can effortlessly bypass these physical boundaries to depict the impossible in clear and creative ways.
3. Video documentaries
Storytelling becomes a means for researchers to document and present not only their findings but also the methodology and undertaken processes. Video documentaries examine a real-life topic, person, event or problem. Days and months of work can be compressed into a few minutes of audio-visual story that can effectively explain your work to different audiences, including policymakers or funding bodies. Taken from a research project perspective, it is like keeping a logbook with the difference that instead of tracking the actions as data, you record your activities and save them in an audio-visual format, an engaging narration. Why not then include a link to such a video when applying for funding for a follow-up project?
4. Educational videos
Online educational videos can help decrease the knowledge gap among society. These videos are meant to educate your target audience about specific problems they might be experiencing or relevant topics they would be interested in. Depending on the group you are addressing, the video can benefit from scientific language when used as educational material for students of higher education. If targeting younger pupils, a simple question-answer format can prove to be a better choice.
5. Presentation videos
If you are looking for something that gives flexibility and opens the door for creativity, presentation videos are a good choice as one of the most common types of online videos developed within research projects. It can be an interview with the project coordinator or partners, a slideshow with key facts or a talk from scientists elaborating on the research objectives and methods to meet them. Regardless of where your choice is placed, the point to remember is – keep the style consistent.
6. Demonstration videos
These are especially suitable for projects with a strong focus on innovation, such as those funded under Innovation Actions or Future and Emerging Technologies within Horizon 2020 or within various funding schemes of the new European Innovation Council Programme. In these projects, among other achievements, new technologies, engineering solutions or applications are being developed and prototypes built. Recordings from the site with your technology in both lab or real-life settings can increase the interest of end-users and industry stakeholders in the produced innovations. As these are developed collaboratively by project partners, always confirm the video content with all parties involved and above all, mind confidentiality issues.
7. Testimonial videos
Imagine that you received a grant for your project and now you are looking for researchers to join the team. Or, for example, a health project in which you are involved contains a clinical study and you are building up a recruitment strategy. A testimonial video is an effective way to present a positive experience that stakeholders have with your project, be it as a doctoral candidate or participant in the research study you are conducting.
The wide selection of new avenues on how to convey messages about research and innovation that videos offer and the unique engagement of the audience, make videos one of the most efficient means of science communication. On YouTube alone, over 500 videos were uploaded per minute in 2020, which equals 30’000 new video uploads per hour. Regardless, however, of how popular online videos are, in science communication we ought to deliver content not only in the format that is being consumed but most importantly ensure it is factual, meaningful and aligns with the project goals. As communication experts leading communication, dissemination and exploitation activities of more than thirty Horizon 2020 projects, and now in already eleven Horizon Europe projects, our team has had numerous occasions to develop high quality, impactful productions in different scientific fields. With the next blog post on video production, we will share tips and guidance on the steps to follow when planning to create audio-visual stories and the best platforms for their distribution. Are you ready for another story? Subscribe to our blog posts on communication, dissemination and exploitation and be sure to not miss out on any information that can help increase your project’s outreach.