September 9, 2023

Video content: Seeing scholarly publishing through a new lens

Discover how you can enrich your journal articles with video abstracts for better readership, engagement, and growth.

min read

As content continues to evolve and progress, we need to ask ourselves, is black-and-white text enough to hook the reader’s attention?

Text and visual data are processed in entirely different ways by our brain. Reading through text makes you think and imagine, activating your brain cells. But attempting to process large amounts of complex textual data can result in cognitive stress or load

By nature, humans make involuntary choices that reduce cognitive stress. Also, visual representation makes it easier for the brain to process data when compared to textual input. This explains the steady rise in the popularity of video content. According to a survey by CodeFuel, nearly 88% of internet users spend more time on websites that contain video content than websites without video.

Just as in any other domain, video content has made its way into scholarly publishing. It continues to change how content is created, shared, and perceived within academia. 

The rise of video content in scholarly publishing

Video content in journals

For a long time, there was no significant change in the nature of scholarly textual content. Later, with the introduction of infographics, pictorial representations, etc., academia began to move towards multimodality to increase the effectiveness of content consumption.

The potential of what videos could deliver and how they could bridge the gap in existing research articles were the factors that encouraged the onset of video journals. Simplified explanation, better reach, visibility, and reproducible results are some of the reasons why videos are here to stay in scholarly publications.

JoVE (Journal of Visualized Experiments) was the first journal to use video production to convey scholarly content in 2006. Following this, many other scholarly publishers, including SAGE Publishing, BMJ, Infobase Publishing, MedCrave, Alexander Street Press, and several medical associations like the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the American Psychological Association began producing exclusive video content.

Citation of YouTube videos in scholarly publications

George M. Whitesides, a renowned chemist and professor at Harvard University, said in his video, ‘Impact of video on scientific articles’, that YouTube has facilitated one of the most significant revolutions in the reporting of science.

With the rise in scholarly video content, several journals and institutions consider YouTube to be the preferred video-sharing platform. According to a study, the trend of citing YouTube videos in scholarly publications has seen a steady growth from 2006 to 2011. The Scopus citation database recorded nearly 36,485 Youtube video citations made to Scopus publications till 2016.

Video abstracts

The trends and changes in content consumption are also applicable to scientific research and have paved the way to its adoption of newer formats of content.

A video abstract is an alternative to the traditional textual abstract that accompanies the main research content. It includes the purpose and the result of the research paper in a video that lasts 2 to 5 minutes. Video abstracts are more engaging and contribute to the improved reach of the research paper. 

One of the earliest video abstracts is from Cell Press which uploaded its video abstract in 2009 that amassed over 11,000 views. Other publishers that promote video abstracts include BMJ, SAGE Publishing, The Physiological Society, and IOPscience. Check out some of the video abstracts by The BMJ here.

Dr. Barry Sanders, an advocate of video abstracts, said that the visualization of quantum physics led him to encourage video abstracts in the New Journal of Physics in 2011. This Open Access and online-only journal included 118 videos as of 2013, which gained nearly 69,000 views.

Benefits of video content in scholarly publishing

Complex concepts are simplified through videos

Scientific research involves complex concepts and mechanisms. Visualization of these concepts simplifies information into an easily consumable format, opening the content up to a much wider audience. Visualization through video content helps audiences interpret experimental data, recognize patterns, and comprehend intricate phenomena.

According to studies, visualization through videos enables students of various streams, including mechanical, chemical, and biological studies, to better understand the concepts. With the ability to showcase the color, position, spatial distribution, and motion, video is the optimal medium to deliver manifold details of a process or phenomena. 

Videos entice viewers to read the full research paper

Video abstracts differ from regular text abstracts by adding a personalized touch. An abstract delivered in the author’s voice makes it feel like the author is directly speaking to the audience. It hooks the viewers to read the entire research paper by providing a visual representation of the data.

Research conducted in 2012–2013 by Wiley’s marketing team showed that articles with video abstracts resulted in 82% more downloads of the full research paper.

Videos help gain more views and expand reach

Researchers look to promote their work, and journals provide them the right platform. Video content is rapidly becoming a popular method of increasing the visibility of research.

According to a study in 2014, only 5% of scholarly articles had a video abstract. But these articles contributed to 25–30% of the most read articles online. Also, reports suggest that scholarly papers with video abstracts can have 111% more views than those without them. Research biologist Adrian Smith revealed that his paper, published in PLOS ONE, had around 12,000 views. But once he uploaded a video that described his research, it gained over 62,300 views.

These numbers reveal that videos are a highly lucrative way to promote research and reach a wider audience.

Videos enable reproducibility of research

Research reproducibility enables other scientists to validate the research and come up with newer findings. However, over 60% of research published in high-impact science journals is not reproducible. The print versions of research data are inadequate to replicate certain experiments by other scientists. Also, geographic limitations and cost factors act as barriers. This occurs when researchers need to travel far to the site of an experiment to learn the skills and techniques involved in reproducing the results. 

Videos can simulate the experiments and might give a real-time experience to the researchers seeking to replicate them. Scientific research journal JoVE produces videos that enable the reproduction of experiments.

4 ways to overcome the challenges in scholarly video content

Get creative with videos

Innovative video content is a sure-fire way to make a research article more compelling and unique. Adding a personalized narration will complement the supportive visual aids.

Use video content to engage your audience and enable them to grasp and retain the core concepts in your research. Creative representation of complex theories and procedures allows your research to make a bigger impact.

Index in video search engines

Investing time and resources into creating a scientific video without taking the measures to make it easily available online is a futile exercise. An abstracting and indexing service can be used to improve the discoverability of academic content for a specific domain. Primarily covering resources like books and journals, the A&I services have now extended to scholarly videos as well.

For example, JoVE’s scientific videos are indexed in PubMed/MEDLINE, Scopus, SciFinder, and other A&I services.

Proper metadata—ISBN, ORCID IDs, and abstracts associated with videos help improve the chances of better visibility. 

Upskill in video creation tools and techniques

The scientific research community has delayed the adoption of video content due to several factors, including time, cost, and, most importantly, inadequate video creation skills. However, the unprecedented growth of video content has prompted the adoption of this trend.

Upskilling in video creation tools and techniques will help researchers record, edit, and create high-quality videos. Video publishing partners like Cadmore Media help authors, institutions, and journals make use of their platform to streamline their videos for better reach and value.

Make video content accessible 

Inclusive publishing also involves the accessibility of video content. A scholarly video can be made more accessible by including certain features and metadata. Some of these are voice-overs, translation, transcription, metadata, captions, persistent identifiers, sign language translations, and an accessible media player. Also, it is crucial to follow the latest guidelines such as NISO recommended audio and video metadata guidelines for improved accessibility of scholarly videos. These factors also enable the video to be optimized for enhanced search engines results. 

Certain laws and mandates in Europe, the US, and Australia insist on the accessibility of multimedia content to make content available to differently-abled people. In the case of the University of California, the U.S. Department of Justice ordered the pull down of nearly 20,000 videos uploaded by the university on platforms like YouTube and iTunes. This was owing to the fact that these videos failed to meet the accessibility requirements of the country. It is essential to abide by the accessibility guidelines for scholarly videos and mandates specific to the region.

Although videos may never entirely replace text-based content, we can be certain that they bring a fresh perspective to science and the way we consume information. What do you think? Is video content the future of academic publishing?

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