Scientists should use Youtube more. Maybe.

This summer, my lab experimented with posting some videos on youtube discussing our science.  An example is by my student Magda Jonikas discussing her work on RNA structure.  Why did we do this?   A few reasons:

1.  We thought it would be fun to try a new hip media (ok, not so new and hip anymore, but I’m an old guy)

2.  We wanted to reach young people thinking about careers in science/engineering/medicine so that they could see what is going on at Stanford.

3.  Since Google owns Youtube, I figured any “hit” from a general word search would be ranked pretty highly if the words were associated with our video (I don’t know this for a fact, but it seems plausible) so it is an easy way to get a high rank on hits.  If you can’t trick Google, join them.

4.  There is a company founded by my friend Phil Bourne called Scivee that is trying to do this for scientists explicitly.  They have an elaborate business plan and are trying to appeal to serious scientists.  I wish them luck, but Youtube was free, and I thought the hits would be higher ranked (see 3).  The idea is that video may be a key way for scientific exchange in the future. (Note:  I have no stake in Scivee).

It’s a big experiment and really we have just gotten started.  Already the issues are clear.

1.  Watching a video longer than 2 minutes requires that it have pretty good production values.  That’s expensive.

2.  Watching video is not very efficient if you are a…strong reader.  Life is short.  I might want to reserve my video watching for really good movies, sporting events and family movies.

3.  Many or all my reasons for doing this may not be compelling.

But we will give it a try.  As of yesterday, Magda’s movie had 56 hits, and she thinks many of them might be me and her parents.  So not blowing people away yet…We’ll see.

p.s. Disclaimer:  My daughter produced the movies as her summer job.  She took video production in high school, and so this made the decision to try this a little easier to implement.



  1. SciVee & Co may actuaklly get you a higher number of viewers, because there will be more people interested in research on that website. At least that’s what happened to some other videos which got posted to both sites.

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