As a researcher, you have an important story to tell, one that can have a positive impact on society. Whether it’s a public health message or a novel technique to share with your peers, everyone is better off when your work is visible.
But academic articles are a tough read and discourage most people. So how do you engage your peers and the public while shining a light on your research?
Well, you should make a video abstract.
It’s is a great way to communicate the story of your research quickly and effectively. In a couple of minutes or less, you can hook-in your audience and entice them to learn more about your latest findings and read your paper.
And in today’s media landscape dominated by online news, video abstracts help your work to be picked up by journalists which can massively broaden your reach and help to unleash your impact.
So what are the different ways for you to make a video abstract?
Types of video abstract
There are several types of video abstract you can use to promote your research. Each has pros and cons, so your choice may depend on your research, your message, your skillset or your budget.
DIY whiteboard explainer video
Whether it was on a blackboard, a whiteboard or a napkin, how many times have you drawn a picture to illustrate your point?
Using a whiteboard to explain certain concepts of your work is an easy and effective way to provide purposeful visuals in your video abstract.
Pro tip: Position your camera carefully to avoid light reflections from obscuring your drawings. Consider making the voiceover separately to your video footage: this may help you control the sound quality more effectively.
Animated whiteboard science animation
Whiteboard animation using specific software allows for the simple and clear representations of a whiteboard drawing but with more visually appealing artistry.
Whiteboard animations are a cost-effective way to convey your work in a clearly and compellingly.
Pro tip: Even though this allows for a more complex drawing, the most effective whiteboard animations remain simple and clear. As always, less is more.
Motion graphics science animation
Whiteboard animations are effective, but they can be limited by their static nature: once an image is drawn, it remains motionless.
The addition of motion to an animation opens up a world of avenues to enhance your message with great flexibility and creative freedom.
Narrated PowerPoint slides
A simple way to get started is to narrate the story of your research using some thoughtful visuals created in PowerPoint.
This is free, and you likely already have everything you need to get started. But remember, a good video abstract done this way shares the same features as an effective presentation in general. So, keep your slides clean and uncluttered, using only helpful and clear imagery. Less is more. Focus on the narrative, rather than a list of facts.
Pro tip: Sound quality matters. Background noise or a poor-quality microphone can make even the most beautiful slides feel amateurish. Even a low-budget microphone, together with a silent room, can significantly improve the quality beyond your computer’s stock audio recorder.
If you’re feeling confident in front of a camera, or at least willing to practise your skills, you can promote your work by literally talking to your audience. This puts a face to your name and allows you to tell your story directly.
The downside is that it can lack visual dynamism, so it’s a great idea to interlace your footage with some other visuals such as film footage or PowerPoint slides.
Pro tip: Speak clearly and look directly at the camera lens. You should know what you want to say, but avoid reciting a script verbatim: your video abstract will be more engaging if it sounds more conversational rather than a robotic monologue.
Show off your work
We don’t all work in an alpine wonderland, but there may be something about the way you collect your data that tells an intriguing side to your story, especially if your work involves field-based research.
Pro tip: It doesn’t need to be sexy rocket science. Simple footage of your lab work underneath a clear narration can be very effective.
Social media platforms, such as Twitter, are powerful tools in science communication and 80-90 % of videos viewed on these platforms are played with the sound muted. So if you can create a video abstract that works in this format, you’ll increase the chances of your video abstract being viewed and shared.
Footage overlaid with short, key points is a simple and effective way to make a social-media-friendly video abstract.
Pro tip: Your word count needs to be shorter than you might think. Aim for less than 15 words on the screen at a time.
A combination of styles
Are you having trouble deciding on a style of video abstract? Well, you don’t necessarily have to choose a single approach: a combination of styles provide different insights into your work.
The above video abstract uses a talking-head interview to narrate the video, footage of the lab’s work in action to provide some context of how they conducted the research, as well as a whiteboard animation to finish off.
You have several options to produce a video abstract to broaden the reach of your work. We encourage you to be creative and tell the story of your research, not just the methods and results.
If you’d like some advice, start a conversation with us on Twitter. Or, if you don’t have the time do produce a video abstract yourself, we can help with that too, just get in touch using our contact form.