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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Salinas, California » Crop Improvement and Protection Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #377081

Research Project: Strategies to Improve Soil and Pest Management in Organic Vegetable and Strawberry Production Systems

Location: Crop Improvement and Protection Research

Title: Why should scientists be on YouTube? It’s all about bamboo, oil and ice cream

item Brennan, Eric

Submitted to: Frontiers in Communication
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/8/2021
Publication Date: 4/29/2021
Citation: Brennan, E.B. 2021. Why should scientists be on YouTube? It’s all about bamboo, oil and ice cream. Frontiers in Communication. 6. Article 586297.

Interpretive Summary: The visual tools for science communication have changed radically over the past 100 years from glass slides shown with magic lantern projectors, to overhead projector sheets and 35 mm slides, and the current era of electronic slides made in PowerPoint. However, despite these improvements, scientists still often fail to communicate their exciting research findings in effective ways to the general public and each other. One way to address this persistent problem is for scientists to learn to make visually interesting and engaging videos that will be posted on YouTube. These videos can be beneficial for several reasons. First, by watching their own videos it can help scientists see where they need to improve their science communications skills. Second, the videos can provide scientific information to stakeholders, like farmers, in visually-interesting and user-friendly ways. And third, the videos can help to promote scientific literacy and more engagement by stakeholders. This paper uses several analogies and metaphors along with three memorable items (bamboo, oil and ice cream), with intriguing connections to YouTube, to explain the value of Do-It-Yourself videos for science communication.

Technical Abstract: Scientific information is a key ingredient needed to solve technical challenges posed by climate change, environmental conservation, and sustainable agriculture, for example, but it must be communicated appropriately. While peer-reviewed journal articles are best for conveying information to very specific technical audiences, they may be ineffective for reaching broad, non-technical audiences, or diverse groups. This is perhaps most urgent in the applied environmental sciences where research results can be readily adopted by stakeholders and appreciated by the general public. Three memorable items (bamboo, oil and ice cream) and several related analogies and metaphors are used in this paper to explain why and how Do-it-Yourself videos, made by scientists and shared on YouTube, can help in these efforts. This relatively new visual communication tool can help scientists to (1) radically increase the impact of their research, (2) inspire diverse groups of students to become the next generation of scientists, (3) share the interesting and often serendipitous stories behind their research that can help increase public support for the research and engagement. This paper is based on an invited presentation given at the 2019 annual meeting of the American Society of Agronomy in a special session titled ‘Science Communication Hacks to Increase Public Engagement - Accessible Tools for Time-Limited Professionals’.