How to use videos on your personal scientist website


scientist website with a tab open and a video is embedded


What is a personal scientist website?


A personal scientist website is an online tool which scientists can use to share their research with the world. Ideally, a scientist’s website should aim to cover:


  • Who they are

  • What their research is about

  • How to contact them


And if you have all of these elements, it becomes a powerful resource. Your website works for you 24/7, not just when you’re networking at conferences. And, it’s the best way to manage your online presence long-term! But there’s one more element that could really differentiate your website from the rest.

That element, is having videos!


action reel for a video

When you share a video on your personal website, it creates an engaging and memorable experience for your website visitors.


My name is Jennifer van Alstyne. Since 2018, I’ve helped professors and researchers around the world with their online presence through my company, The Academic Designer LLC. Today we’re going to talk about building your personal scientist website with an emphasis on embedding videos as content for these 7 page ideas for your website.


  • About

  • Research

  • Research project (project-focused)

  • Fellowships and grants

  • Speaking

  • Conference presentation (supplementary info)

  • Blog



Benefits of having a website to share your research


But first, why is a personal scientist website helpful for you? When Patrick Wareing asked me if scientists should have their own websites, here’s what I said:


“As scientists, you need to communicate with stakeholders. A website is the best way to do this long-term. More than that, it can open up your world to things like more media attention, collaborators, and potential industry partners.”


Here are 15 reasons why you should consider your own website, as it:


  1. Is perfect for managing a professional online presence

  2. Helps you connect with people in your research field

  3. Reaches people around the world, 24/7

  4. Adapts with you over time (add pages to meet your needs)

  5. Creates clearer understanding of the impact of your research

  6. Means potential funders are better able to understand you

  7. Can attract media attention to your work

  8. Is a way for people to find your publications (and cite them)

  9. Allows people to explore when it’s convenient for them

  10. Encourages development of long-term networking connections

  11. Can highlight collaborators and research assistants

  12. Is great for recruitment for your lab or group

  13. Is a fun way for students to learn about you

  14. Has potential for blogging, podcasting, and sharing other digital media

  15. Creates engaging experiences for all your audiences

7 pages for your website


Now, back to the idea of the seven key pages and how to feature a video in each one.


About


The About page on your personal scientist website is the single most important page. People are coming to your website to to learn about you after all. So it’s also a good idea to make it your homepage and to post a video introducing yourself upfront

Your About page and accompanying video can include your:


  • Bio (a short 100-150 word summary about you and your career)

  • Photo (and a headshot of yourself in the video)

  • Contact details (how you most want people to get in touch, i.e. your email address)

Dr. Eric B. Brennan says scientific information:


“Must be communicated in ways that are accessible to diverse groups, and that go beyond traditional methods (peer-reviewed publications),” in Frontiers in Communication.


When it comes to telling the story of your research in an introduction video, try this strategy:


  • Introduce yourself and your research on camera

  • Capture video of yourself, your research, and lab to edit together a more cinematic video story

  • Work with experts to create video telling the story of your research

Dr. Anna Clemens says:


“...stories do three things: They get our attention, they get us emotionally engaged, and they make us remember.”

When you tell a story with video, you have greater opportunity to emotionally engage with your visitors. Help them remember your research with a video.



Research


Creating a Research page is a great way to share the scope of your work on your website. This page helps share the big picture of your research with:


  • Short descriptions of your current research

  • A list of research areas of interest


Dr. Wiebke Finkler and Dr. Bienvenido Leon says:


“the rise of online video consumption also creates potentially significant opportunities for connecting with audiences through stories about science.”


The biggest issue people run into when creating their Research pages is finding just the right amount of information to share. Video is a great way to share the details about your research in a fun way. It helps your website visitors avoid feeling overwhelmed by a block of highly-detailed text.


Not sure if you have too much text on your Research page? View the page on your mobile phone. If you have to scroll too much, a Research Project page will be great for you.


the goldilocks dilemma with three bowls


Research project


When you want to feature a specific project on your website, it’s a great idea to make a new Research project page.


You might include these on your Research project page:


  • The title of your research project

  • Description of your research (telling the story of this project and why it matters)

  • Collaborators and co-authors

  • Research sponsors

  • Industry partners

  • Photos of the research and/or scientists

  • Link to the lab website

  • Link to your research affiliation


On top of this, the media loves seeing video abstracts. Use this little trick to get noticed, and help your research get the spotlight it deserves.


media crowding around holding microphones


Fellowships and grants


In this article in the Nature career column, authors say video should have a stronger place in scientific funding. While you may not already have a handy video from your grant application process, it’s a great investment once you receive funding.


Fellowships and grants pages are often in list-form. This page is great because it:


  • Highlights your accomplishments

  • Shares your research interests

  • Thanks research sponsors

But a list can also be a bit boring.


Add a video abstract to your Fellowships and grants page! 1-2 videos on this page can really make your research pop.


bugs bunny with cash


Speaking


Have you been invited to speak about your research? Don’t just add it to the list on your CV. Having a dedicated Speaking page on your website is a great way to highlight engagements like:


  • Invited talks

  • Presentations

  • Keynotes

  • Workshops

  • Special sessions


A Speaking page is the perfect place to share and embed recorded talk or presentation on your website. Your visitors can watch your presentations completely at their leisure and at their own pace.


If you have a number of recorded speaking engagements, consider hiring a video editor to create a speaker demo reel for you. It’ll be like a Greatest Hits or All Stars compilation.


Hey now you're an all star GIF


Conference presentations


Go beyond the Speaking page with a Conference presentations page to highlight a specific presentation. You may want a separate page for your upcoming presentation to share things like:


  • Handouts

  • Presentation slides

  • Abstracts

  • Conference paper (full text)


When you have a video recording to share from your presentation, this page is the perfect place to embed it.


A Conference presentations page is easy to share online with the link, or at the conference with a QR code. It’s a great networking tool!


Here's my business card GIF

Blog


You may consider starting a blog on your personal website. Scientists around the world use blogging to share:


  • Research

  • News

  • Personal interests


Blogging is a lot of work. Some scientists blog because it increases the chance people searching for similar topics online will find your website. The process of improving those chances is called Search Engine Optimisation.


A blog is not necessary for your website. A blog does give extra perspective to your research live many would enjoy reading.


Videos naturally complement blogs. You can even make video blogs (vlogs), and provide a live commentary of a topic of your interest.


Now let’s talk more specifically about different approaches to making videos.



How these video ideas enhance your scientist website


Introduce yourself and your research on camera


I recently watched 15 Minutes of Shame, the Monica Lewinsky documentary on HBO Max about public shaming in the age of the internet.


Expert guest, neuroscientist Dr. Helen Wang said:


“Viewing people’s faces and body language… if we don’t have access to that information on the internet, it’s harder for us to even think about what that person might be thinking or feeling. We need all those inputs to understand.”


When I heard that, I realized the kinds of videos scientists need for a website don’t necessarily need to be professionally produced. It just has to show that you’re a person. Even a short video of you on camera introducing yourself and your work is going to help people feel more connected with you because they can view your face and body language.



Let’s start with making the most out of software you already have. Some scientists even use Zoom and simply record their meetings. Most computers with a webcam should also have an in-built recording software, such as iMovie.



Capture video of yourself, your research, and lab to edit together


Most smartphones are pretty good at capturing video. You can use it to record short video clips and photos which you can edit in free software including Windows Movie Maker, iMovie (or if you’re up for a challenge, try a free trial of Adobe Premiere Pro).


You have the choice to completely improvise the video, or write a script. If you opt for a script, check out these tips from Dr. Karen McKee to help you prepare.


Video editing can take a lot of time. It’s a skill you may enjoy developing as part of your SciComm repertoire. Editing can also be outsourced to a skilled video editor. Gather these for when you search for a contractor:


  • Short videos and photos, and anything else you want shown in the video

  • Recorded audio voice-over

  • Notes about your expectations for the final video




Work with experts to create video telling the story of your research


Getting a video abstract professionally made is an amazing investment for your research.

That’s why I reached out to Tullio here at Animate Your Science. I was nearing the end of a website design project with an awesome professor. I knew that video would really make his research pop.


Animate Your Science creates video abstracts. If you include a video abstract with your article, you’ll increase your readership by up to 88%! On top of this, you’ll be more likely to grab the attention of the media. Journalists are often looking for video content they can use because they know how engaging it is. Learn more about video abstracts from Animate Your Science.



Create your own video abstract


If there isn’t room in the lab budget to hire experts to make your video abstract, that’s ok. We encourage you to make your own! From whiteboard animations to narrated PowerPoint slides, this article has 8 examples of how to make a video abstract for your science from Dr. Flynn Slattery, or you could also watch the video below for a quick summary of the process.




Highlight your science for a general audience


When you talk about your science on video for your website, remember that you’re going to reach a general audience. Here are some best practices for when you create video for your website:


  • Think about the goal for your video

  • Avoid jargon, define words unfamiliar to a general audience

  • Share context and details needed to help people understand


Record a short video about your general research area. Practice speaking in clear, easy-to-understand words. Go back and listen to see if there is anything that might be confusing. When in doubt, as a family member or friend for feedback.


Toy Story jargon everywhere meme


Record your talk or presentation


If you’re presenting virtually, your talk might be recorded and shared by the event organizer. Email them before the event to ask if it can be recorded. And, if you can have a copy to share on your website.


Do you have an in-person talk or presentation coming up? Ask permission to record it. If your in-person talk is being recorded by the event host, request a copy of the video. If possible, these are good questions to ask during the planning stages of the event. That way, the event organizer can share resources they have and let you know of any conflicts.


Permission to record is a good thing to ask for, as others on your conference panel may feel uncomfortable being on video. Even if you can’t share the full presentation, you might secure permission to share portions of the video for a speaker demo reel.


Did you ask for my permission meme gif


Repurposing video for your blog


If you have videos you’ve watched that you would love to share, your blog may be a good place for it. Re-sharing videos from YouTube or Twitter for example on a blog helps more people see it.



Getting started on your website


I wrote this guide to help you walk through the 7 steps to launching your personal website. It’s a big project, but well worth it. Don’t worry about your website being perfect before it’s launched. Even getting up a simple 1-page website will make a difference for sharing your research


When you add video, it makes the whole experience even better. I want people to learn about your science. I want them to be curious about your research.


The best part is, videos have the potential to spread far and wide thanks to the internet. Indeed, video can be re-shared again and again. Even if a scientist website isn’t right for you, video is. I hope this article encourages you to try a video approach for your science.



Jennifer van Alstyne

Bio for Jennifer van Alstyne


Jennifer van Alstyne (@HigherEdPR) is a communications strategist for professors and researchers. At The Academic Designer LLC, Jennifer helps people and organizations share their work effectively online. The Social Academic blog shares advice articles and interviews on managing your online presence. Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.



Authors

Jennifer van Alstyne

Juan Miguel Balbin

Dr Tullio Rossi


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