This post follow part 1, where I looked at the type of videos and channels appearing on YouTube searches for science communication.
While there’s a lot of science content on YouTube, and relatively strong content communicating science, there isn’t much about science communication itself. There are videos for non-scientists about science, but not about scicomm. A Crash Course or RiskBites equivalent for science communication doesn’t exist.
The obvious question is; should that content exist? To me, the answer can only be yes.
One reason is my personal experience in discovering science communication. I didn’t find out that science communication existed until a few weeks before I graduated with my BSc, while I was already researching psychology-based Masters courses. The second I came across a description of UWE’s scicomm course, I knew it was the Masters I wanted to do, before I’d even read any more about what scicomm even was.
Finding out about scicomm any later would have changed my options entirely, while finding out earlier may have let me get more experience in the field beyond reading.
However, getting people into formal science communication isn’t the best or the only reason to have science communication content. Another good reason is that it would people see (and challenge) the assumptions science communicators use in their roles. Also, hearing about the issues and difficulties of communicating science may encourage people to question the science coverage they hear. On the contrary, bringing discussions about “the public/publics” to people may be risky, as many definitions of the public/publics aren’t exactly flattering or useful.
Another argument for me is that YouTube would be effective at clearing up the processes of scientists and science. Mainstream media often shows “science” as a monolith, not as disparate sets of individuals and organisations with their own competitors and antagonists. Scientists also tend to be seen as solo players responsible for their individual work, so media with scientists in doesn’t give any knowledge about the structures and processes involved in research. Science communication content is in a great place to dispel these ideas, showing the complexity of working in science, as well as finding ways to explain questions such as who decides what “science” studies, and why news headlines show scientists coming to opposite conclusions on topics such as health and medicine.
Finally, there’s the idea of uncertainty. I think the idea of someone from the science side of things being honest that we don’t always have the answers, we don’t know the best way to interact with people, and that there are questions and debates in science, is both refreshing and necessary. In blogs, I’ve seen communicators express doubts and questions, but videos about science topics tend to be confident; either promoting results or explaining ideas as undoubtable facts.
The question I have at the moment is; as a YouTube nerd and a scicomm nerd, what can I do? Is this content missing from YouTube because nobody has tried it, or because people have tried creating it and been unsuccessful?
Right now, I’m investigating a similar question as part of a uni assignment, so part #3 will be the results.