Science videos for exchange between academic peers and professionals

Will video replace specialist literature in the future? That’s highly improbable. Will it work as an independent medium, covering specific needs? That can be said for sure. An interesting approach can be observed at the international science publisher Springer Nature. Christoph Baumann works as editorial director physics books at Springer Nature Netherlands and is typically dealing with the publication of books. Some time ago, however, he started to ask potential authors who declined his offer to write a textbook: Might you be interested in recording a video instead?

That’s how videos like “Quantum Physics of Light and Matter – Bose-Einstein Condensates and Superfluids”, presented by Luca Salasnich from the University of Padova in Italy, and “Astronomical Freeform Optics”, presented by Daewook Kim from the University of Arizona in the United States, came into existence. Targeted to university students and scientific peers, they are about one hour long and divided in segments, each about 5 to 15 minutes long. Renowned scientists introduce themselves shortly and then present aspects of their respective scientific discipline in detail.

In the long run, Christoph says, videos shall neither replace lectures for students nor scientific books but will become an additional source for an easy information exchange between researchers and professionals in the private sector.

The production process is as follows. The scientists outline the scope of the video and which resources like slides, pictures or video clips they are going to use. If their proposal is accepted by Springer Nature the scientists go for producing the video, while the publisher pays a fee for their technical realization to her or him or to a service provider. As soon as the scientist delivers a video file, Christoph’s team asks a peer scientist for a review to assure quality, carries out some editing, adds a trailer, a transcript, and logo, and publishes the video behind a paywall.

Bundled into packages, such videos can be sold to university libraries on a subscription base, Christoph explains, similar to Springer Nature’s ebook collections. The most important prerequisite for doing so: There must be a substantial number of videos, like 30 or 50, covering a specific discipline. In his own field of expertise, physics, there are nine videos, currently. Medicine and public health, dentistry and computer science, among others, are represented in the portfolio as well. For the whole list of about 180 videos, each typically containing 5 to 6 chapters, visit this ovierview on Springer Link.

This project is still in its early stage, obviously. In addition, paywalls aren’t state of the art any more in times of a general transition to open access publishing (including for example the recent Transformative Agreement for the Nature journals).

However, the approach looks promising for science as a whole: science education is complemented by professionally produced videos, and scientists get another opportunity to increase their international visibility via an innovative medium.

(Declaration of interest: The author of this blogpost, Thilo Körkel, is an employee of Springer Nature.)

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