How can I use an animated video for my research project?

October 11, 2019

I recently answered this question for a potential client. This answer is not exhaustive. Videos can for example be part of the research as experimental variables but I think this is a good summary.


Essentially there are two main audiences.


1. Those directly impacted by what you are doing i.e., a particular group of people such as farmers, patients with a particular condition, employees in a particular sector. Public engagement videos to this group can have multiple uses.

  • Increasing participation with studies.

  • Increase volunteering, boots on the ground which can help you get more measures directly or by persuading others to participate.

  • Providing information (results or other good advice) to the community to help them. 

  • Getting information from the community to help your project i..e,. directing to questionnaires/meetings which help you determine what their view is about aspects of your project.

  • Maintaining the good relations with relevant communities which are vital to getting good access in the future. 

  • A general all purpose video that can be used to explain what you do and why it is worth the money invested.

The benefits of increased participation and volunteering in the short term can be more data,faster, an increased relationship with the community you are trying to work with. In the longer term however, learning more about what the community wants and thereby directing research in a way that is more likely to function when results and recommendations hit the real world. This is very important in the clinical field in which I myself worked I am sure it is as important in yours and something funders see as ever more valuable in grant applications. Building relationships with the community allows you to understand what community expectations are from research thereby allowing you to manage expectations in the longer term. If advice appears negative for the community it is far more likely to be listened to if the scientists giving it have built a reputation for caring about the community they are working for. 

To use these you need to identify appropriate media channels that will help you spread your message. Normally that is a couple of  key facebook/twitter accounts / groups, they need to be on board from the get go. Great videos go nowhere if you don't have a plan to get them seen.


2. The general public.  All research has a good opportunity to capture a wider interest if it is framed correctly. Possible aims of a video.

  • Communicate knowledge about your field and the importance of funding research into your field.

  • Dispel dangerous myths in your field prevalent in the general public or propagated by erroneous media reporting. 

  • Direct the general public to an action. Perhaps assisting one of your partners who already has a large twitter profile and ongoing campaign. i.e. end an informative video with a call to the viewer to write to their MP on a relevant issue that is related and has national relevance. Link with an already existing campaign with a charity related to your field of research. 

  • Get data about wider public perceptions by linking to a questionnaire.

  • A general all purpose video that can be used to explain what you do and why it is worth the money invested.

The last option is specific to your project and study and essentially important if you feel it is important to justify your cost to the tax payer. It is designed to sit on websites, perhaps be played at public events, unlikely to be anything that is shared. You will notice it was on the list for the more specific audience as well. The others are are more generic about your field and will include some information about your work but will set it in a wider context. The benefit is less direct obviously. However helping a partner is good for future relations, making yourself relevant to the general public increases the chance of a bigger portion or research funding pie and pleases grant giving bodies. Doing some good. I think scientists want to do good in their particular field and using their knowledge to dispel myths and put the weight of their expertise into a good public action not only feels good but is good for the general public's view on science.


Again you need pre-existing channels to help you, by retweeting or otherwise sharing etcetera. Universities vary in their public engagement efforts but most have reasonable support at the very least. However getting 'buy in' from a charity / organization / influencer with a large audience to start off with means your video will have a great kick start.


Hope that helps think about what you can use a video for and good luck with your project whatever :)

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Dr Adam McNamara trading as ScienceSplained.

13 Rue Carnot




SIRET: 844 815 704 000 11