A #scicomm resource guide to video abstracts

I just discovered video abstracts last week thanks to a scientific communication seminar by SciFund founder Jai Ranganathan. Lacking shame, I decided to try one because I just had a paper come out that week. Here was my first attempt at the process.

Of course, I had really no idea what I was doing but did some solid scientific-communication learning.

Personal Discoveries
1. Eyes. Look directly at the camera.
2. Plan. Do not script but think about what you want to say in advance.
3. Do not read. Having the abstract available to read is useful, but watching someone else read it is not that fun and quite distracting (mid-way through you can see me reading it).
4. Personal motivation. Describe your personal reason for doing the paper not listed in the actual abstract.
5. Audience effect. Going public and posting it feels much different than recording and watching on your machine.

A relatively empty niche for ecologists
Excluding kittens, we have an opportunity here. Doing the research now, I checked my two fav ecoblogs (The Oikos Blog and The Journal of Ecology Blog) that are directly associated with journals. I did not see any video content. Loads of great pictures, but no other media.  I also checked the blog provided by Ecography too. Similarly, I could not locate any videos. I then checked the facebook pages for these journals to no avail.  Using the youtube search bar directly, I did find some excellent videos by The Journal of Animal Ecology and Functional Ecology. However, these offerings were not quite the video abstract format I was expecting – author describing a recent paper in brief. If there are loads of them out there for ecology, they are not that easy to find. Consequently, I propose we have an opportunity to do some potentially compelling or at least more personal scientific communication about our research. There are numerous resources for scientists associated directly with video abstracts.

Video abstract resources
1. The scientist videographer blog has a post on how to make a video abstract for your next journal article.  Good introduction.

2. The guidelines provided by the New Journal of Physics for video abstracts are fantastic.

3. Cell also has specific guidelines that are more technical in nature, but the sample videos on the side bar are amazing.

4. To round out your education on the topic, check the out the video abstracts for the Journal of Number Theory.

5. Finally, the simple rules for good oral presentations still apply.

I propose ecologists fire up those webcams built right into the laptops (but use an external mic). We have audience (at least we can share with each other, i.e. ecolog-L has over 10,000 members) and outcomes could include better recognition of one another and appreciation of the inspirations and motivations that drive us to study natural systems.

In a nutshell, plan, be brief (< 4 mins), check audio, minimize distractions, be personable, and view as a mini-story (somewhere between elevator pitch & actual abstract).