By Guest Author 06/03/2017

By Professor Lloyd Spencer Davis, University of Otago

We live in a world where we consume more and more of our media online – especially with regard to videos. For those of us interested in communicating science in such a medium it is not enough to simply put our videos online.

Every minute of the day, 300 new hours of video are uploaded to YouTube and in a single day 4.95 billion videos will be viewed worldwide by the more than 1.3 billion of us who are YouTube users. In other words: it is the right place to go for the eyeballs, but there is enormous competition for those eyeballs.

With that in mind, an international study involving 20 researchers – led from Spain (Professor Bienvenido Leon, University of Navarra), Kuwait (Dr Michael Bourk, Gulf University for Science and Technology) and New Zealand (Professor Lloyd Spencer Davis, University of Otago) – is examining how best to incorporate science in online videos in ways that will attract those eyeballs.

The initial part of the project involved monitoring the top viewed science videos on YouTube for a year. The second phase involved analysing the content and style of 826 videos covering three hot topics in science.

To date, the results have not been too encouraging for those of us interested in the effective communication of science. In the United States, for example, those under 31 now spend more time watching online videos than they do television. This radical shift to consuming online media has seen an alteration of many of the traditional communication techniques used by producers that broadcast on television.

The fastest growing segment of the online video realm is what is known as user generated content, which, while amateurish in many cases, has its own charms when it comes to attracting viewers. Marketers are rushing to understand those charms in order to get to those viewers, but as science communicators we need to do more than that. It’s not just about getting to those viewers, but understanding how effectively and how accurately science can be communicated to them.

You can help, by taking a short 5-minute survey (which includes the time spent watching a short video). Let’s make online science sexy at:


0 Responses to “What makes science in online videos sexy?”

  • Fairly useless survey – short exam on watching a video, which was complete with national stereotypes in the feeble jokey narration. Maybe this was a test of willingness to complete crap online surveys? I can’t see how it gives any insight into online videos in science awareness or communication.

  • Hi Lloyd,

    As someone who has started making videos, and is increasingly asked to teach others some of the basics of video production, I’d be really interested to read about (or watch a YouTube video on!) your results when they’re available.

    Will you be posting here again?



  • I doubt very much if the “effective communication of science” can be quantified by number of views on YouTube.