Last week, at the SigmaXi pizza lunch (well, really dinner), organized by SCONC, we were served a delicious dish – a lively presentation by Dennis Meredith about Explaining Research, the topic of his excellent new book – in my humble opinion the best recent book on this topic.
His presentation was almost identical to what he presented on our panel at the AAAS meeting in February in San Diego, and you can check out the slideshow (with the audio of his presentation going on with the slides) here.
Dennis and I are friends, and he attended 3-4 of the four ScienceOnline conferences to date and you can read my interview of Dennis here.
His presentation last week mainly focused on the power of the image – be it still or video. Research shows that words (auditory) and images (visual) work synergistically – presenting information simultaneously via auditory and visual channels results in greater recollection of facts than words-only method and picture-only method added up. Yet scientists are extremely devoted to purely textual communication.
It is important for researchers to keep this in mind and remember to make pictures and videos of themselves, their lab groups, their equipment and experiments. Those can be placed on the lab webpage, on social networks (like Flickr, Facebook and YouTube) and blogs where they help the audience understand the work better and get more interested in the work. Slideshows can be placed on Slideshare or MyBrainShark and thus made available to the public outside the small audience at a conference where the original presentation happened.
The current digital technology has improved so much recently that a relatively cheap digital camera, something that any individual can afford, is capable of producing photographs and videos of sufficiently high quality for most of the researcher’s needs. There is a plethora of programs, free or commercial, that one can use to ‘photoshop’ or edit pictures, to record and edit audio, and to record and edit video files, as well as to produce attractive graphs.
Yet there are situations when it is worth hiring a professional photographer – not just because the professional will have much better equipment, but because the professional has the knowledge and skills concerning lighting, framing, and editing. Thus, if a lab expects their paper to be deserving of making the cover of a scientific journal, it is worth hiring a professional to produce the image. For producing more complex (and hopefully more lasting) videos for sites like Scivee.tv and JoVE, again it pays to hire a professional to make the video as best as it can be.
The way scientific publishing is evolving, with journals rethinking the way they format and publish the articles with the Web in mind, it will be more and more feasible – and important for the authors – to embed high-quality images, audio, video and animations in the papers themselves, not just as supplemental information. Thus it is important for researchers to understand this and keep learning and practicing the art and craft of producing compelling images, graphs, audio and video.