By JoVE: It’s Science by video – University of Copenhagen

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03 November 2015

By JoVE: It’s Science by video

Scientific publishing

The proverb has it that a picture is worth a thousand words. If that is true, you would be writing for days to catch up with even a few seconds of video. This truth could not be more apparent after sitting down for a few minutes with JoVE, the Journal of Visualized Experiments, the world’s first peer reviewed scientific video journal.

Kim Dalby, an Assistant Professor in the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Chemistry says that:

"If one understands a method, one can better judge whether it is true when the author of an article claims to have achieved a specific result.

Kim Dalby

Assistant Professor

Department of Chemistry

University of Copenhagen

“If one understands a method, one can better judge whether it is true when the author of an article claims to have achieved a specific result. It’s a bit like having a grasp of baking. If you know that there is cocoa in the cake mix, you will be suspicious if the cake is white when it comes out of the oven.”

Replacing long explanations with clips

Dalby’s chemistry niche involves a fair amount of ingenuity and craftsmanship. She’s an expert in Focused Ion Beam Scanning Electron Microscopy (FIBSEM) in the Department of Chemistry’s NanoGeoScience research group. As a researcher, she often struggles through protracted written explanations of actions that could be visualized in seconds. Thus, she was enthusiastic when she first came across the new media.

Like all periodicals. Except...

Despite using a video medium, JoVE is a traditional, peer reviewed scientific journal (with a first impact factor of 1.325). As with other journals, researchers submit a written article for evaluation. And as with all other journals, the article is then reviewed by peers. It is at this step that JoVE veers off the beaten path.

When an article is accepted, JoVE’s editorial board begins to develop a screenplay for a video. When the researcher has approved the script, a professional videography team is sent out. After the recording is complete, the JoVE team is responsible for creating an animation that explains the article’s fundamental principles, as well as all video editing and narration. The final result is a professionally produced video that, at its best, is able to provide visual support for the text based scientific results.

Fortunes lost through bad dissemination

Even though JoVE’s videos are supplements for written articles, they are incredibly valuable because they make it easier to reproduce research and facilitate knowledge transfer. Twenty-eight billion US dollars a year is spent on non-reproducible biomedical research in the United States alone. Within all fields of experimental research, groups lose money on a daily basis when they attempt to reproduce experiments that were not described well enough in scientific journal articles.

Lost knowledge could be recaptured

This is an issue that Kim Dalby is too familiar with. Every year, she trains students, colleagues, and guest researchers from academia as well as industry to use NanoGeoScience’s highly sensitive equipment. Both colleagues and students occasionally move on to other universities, and when they do, knowledge goes with them, especially the unique ingenuity and know-how that was acquired over time. Dalby feels that some of this knowledge could be recovered if it were recorded. She is also certain, that the learning curve would be less steep if new users were introduced to the videos before being trained on the research section’s expensive instruments.

“I am convinced that our training would take less time and be more successful.” says Dalby.

Besides scientific articles, JoVE is also in the process of producing a series of videos that demonstrate basic methods.

In good company using the publication of the future

JoVE’s impact factor of 1.325 could be more impressive, but the journal has only covered chemistry for a year. Kim Dalby is convinced that the journal is onto something that will change the way chemists communicate with the public. She also points out, that researchers would be in good company if they publish in JoVE, where the likes of Cambridge, Harvard and MIT have already had articles supplemented with visuals and narration in the new video journal. In fact she has discovered that the biology and medical departments at the University of Copenhagen have already gotten in on the act.

“So perhaps now is the right time to reconsider how we publish our results and methods. We might manage to increase our audience and the reproducibility and credibility of our work”, concludes Kim Dalby.