2. Project Description

Video 1: Where did people go in the last Ice Age? by V. Pia Spry-Marques.
© S. Pilaar Birch, S. Castor-Perry and V. Pia Spry Marques 2013. CC-BY-NC-SA.

The main goal of the Digital Research Video Project was to digitise research in the format of illustrated video podcasts in order to help to fill the gap in dissemination and public understanding. In the format of a short (less than 5 minute) podcast that uses both audio and video, salient points of a given research topic are drawn as they are explained, allowing the viewer to both listen to and visualise what is being described. The videos highlight current research in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology and the Whipple Museum of the History of Science at the University of Cambridge. There are currently few examples of efforts similar to this project. The Naked Scientists, based at the University of Cambridge, currently produce a science scrapbook, and RSA Animate, transforms lectures into animated shorts.

What is unique about the Digital Research Video Project is that it was launched with a communications workshop for early career researchers, and the researchers behind the videos created the scripts and worked with a professional research communicator and producer to create the final product. The project provided early career researchers with both the tools they need to communicate while helping them showcase their ongoing research in a way that is not just open access, but accessible via a number of websites, blogs, and YouTube, to users of the internet and social media networks.

Video 2: What do bones say about beliefs? by Rosalind Wallduck.
© S. Pilaar Birch, S. Castor-Perry and Rosalind Wallduck 2013. CC-BY-NC-SA.

The project is part of the larger Social Media Knowledge Exchange, which was launched in June 2012 and funded a small number of year-long social media projects under the AHRC Skills Development programme. It concluded in June 2013. The overall budget for the project was £500, which was split evenly between the workshop costs and production of four videos. After an initial planning phase, the project timeline was set to coincide with the start of the academic year. The workshop was advertised throughout October 2012 and took place in conjunction with the request for video proposals in early November 2012. In December 2012, winners were selected. The videos were animated and narrated by Sarah Castor-Perry, who used a Canon scanner to scan her original line drawings, a program called SmoothDraw (freely available online) to add colour, and Adobe Premiere Elements (£45/$70) for editing. The simplicity of the format and availability of online tools make it an easily replicable process. Between selection and production phases, researchers worked with Castor-Perry to finalise their script. Production took place throughout January 2013, and one video was released per month (Jan-April). This left time for data gathering and review during May in preparation for the conclusion of the project in June and final conference in July 2013.

2.1 Workshop

Video 3: What diet can tell us about social relationships? by Lauren Cadwallader.
© S. Pilaar Birch, S. Castor-Perry and Lauren Cadwallader. CC-BY-NC-SA.

The Digital Research Video Project aimed first of all to give early career researchers a half-day workshop designed to provide some skills and tips for communicating their own work. The workshop was designed to cover social media practice both outside and within academia, and had participants consider ways in which they could reach out through social media, using it successfully to make their current research accessible to the public. One of the activities was creating storyboards of research projects, which demanded that participants think about new ways to represent their work. Participants were invited (along with the university community) to submit applications to the video competition. Though anecdotal, feedback from the workshop was positive and the event was received with enthusiasm. Participants felt one of the main benefits was the fact that the workshop was held within the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology and advertised widely, rather than an outside event requiring initiative to discover, locate and attend. I would suggest this is an example of a greater need for departments to hold in-house events rather than students having to seek out these types of services in order to develop transferable skills.

2.2 Videos

Video 4: What can a 17th-century print tell us about Astronomical Theory? by Isla Fay
© S. Pilaar Birch, S. Castor-Perry and Isla Fay 2013. CC-BY-NC-SA.

Four research projects were selected for media production following a competition. One of the vital components of the application was a one-page video script, written by the researchers themselves, which would serve as the basis for the illustration and narration. Applications also required a statement of interest and summary of research, and the winners were selected based on the strength of their research projects and scripts as well as the viability of the project for illustration.

Currently, traditional media coverage of archaeology aimed towards the general public tends to focus on excavations and the 'discovery' of objects, and famous people (e.g. Ascherson 2004). In-depth coverage is often targeted at more select audiences. In general, there is less coverage of laboratory research, especially work being carried out by early career researchers.

The project therefore highlighted a variety of 'behind-the-scenes' research in four areas:


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File last updated: Tue Sep 3 2013