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Publishing: Make an impact with a video abstract

Authors | Researchers
Publishing: Make an impact with a video abstract

Statistics show that a video abstract can significantly increase engagement with scientific publications. What are the benefits and how can you go about making one?


You did it. You finally got your paper published. The long process of writing, preparing the figures and reaching a consensus with your co-authors, followed by the tedious edits, rejections, and re-writes, is finally over. Naturally, you want to just sit back, celebrate and bask in the success of your hard work.

Assuredly, you deserve it. But, once you’ve had your well-earned pat on the back, maybe it’s time to think about how to make an impact by increasing the visibility of your article.

Video abstracts add value

Without a doubt, the most important aspect of your paper is the solid science inside it. However, it is easy to forget that  much of the value of that science is down to the impact it makes on the scientific community. In short, impact comes from your work being seen and recognized; the more of your peers who know about it, the more likely they are to read it, cite it and consequently apply your methods, results and conclusions to their own research.

Over the years, video abstracts have proven very effective tools to improve visibility of scientific publications. One of the earliest studies, carried out in 2014, found that even though only 5% of articles in their sample had video abstracts, 25-30% of the most read articles had one. This meant that overall the small group of articles with videos associated were read significantly more than their video-less counterparts.

Others report similar trends, with international publishers stating that articles they publish with video abstracts can have 111% more views than those without. So, whilst they are far from obligatory, the data suggest that taking a little extra time to promote your paper with a video abstract can have a positive effect on impact.

Guidelines for video abstracts

Different journals will have their own rules around what kind of video abstracts they accept. These requirements include length, file size and the type of content. Therefore, the first thing to do is to check out your publisher’s guidelines. Often you can simply contact them to let them know your plans and get some advice about their expectations.

In terms of length, the Institute of Physics says the general rule is that videos should be limited to four minutes. Some other publishers have videos closer to seven minutes each. However long you decide to make it, your video needs to be straight to the point. Remember: you are drawing people in to read your article, not giving a seminar about it.

Also, be aware that journals often ask for transcripts to publish alongside your video. This means that you will need to write your script either before or after filming. My personal advice would be to write it before. It is almost impossible to deliver a short, concise explanation of an article without preparation so planning is essential. You don’t have to stick to your pre-written speech word for word, but a good plan works wonders.

How to make a video abstract

Your audience here is your peers – other scientists – so you can set your “popularization scale” quite high. You probably don’t need to explain well-known concepts, but anything specific to your research field or project should be defined. Also, your questioning or reasoning should be made obvious to viewers of any specialty.

What you also need is a good message that will pull people in. The temptation is to consider your article title as a message. This could work. but more often what you should tell people in a video abstract is closer to a simplified version of the conclusion of your paper. For example, what is the overall topic of the work? What do you hope to achieve with this research? What new information do your findings add to what we already knew?

In 2019, researcher Ni Feng and her team entitled their video “How hibernating squirrels survive without water”. Their topic is obvious and self-explanatory. Like they have done, a good video abstract will then detail the main points covered by the paper in a way that helps viewers know whether it is of interest to them.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a Hollywood budget. Video abstracts are often made using minimal equipment. Most recent smartphone cameras or webcams will be sufficient. Nevertheless, for a better-quality video you could ask the communication team at your institute or even your publisher to help you out.

If you do make a video yourself, take care to position the camera well, in a room with as little background noise as possible and a nice decor. That means staying away from whirring lab machines and finding a suitable backdrop with a soft, natural light source. Look into the camera, take your time and give it your all.

Make an impact

Publishing research can take years. It deserves to be seen and recognized. Giving people a sneak preview of what to expect by making a video abstract can improve the visibility of your paper and help your research make more of an impact.

To help you make the most of your research, Hindawi have partnered with SciPod to enhance impact after publication for their authors. A 10% discount is available to Hindawi authors on SciPod’s audio summaries. Find out more >>


This blog post is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY). Views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Hindawi. The illustration is by Hindawi and is also CC-BY.

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