[Editor’s note: This post is by guest blogger Scott Spicer. I’m excited to see this blog used to discuss new scholarly pieces related to library publishing, so big thanks to Scott for writing about his recent paper in the Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication. There are definitely implications for library publishers in the increasing prevalence of video abstracts – both in the increased demands for sophisticated technical infrastructure, and the potential for creative outreach and increased impact – and I look forward to seeing this discussed further in the community.]
As a media librarian responsible for providing campus expertise and support in multiple media-related contexts (including both production and collections), I view the world of information through a unique lens. Quite simply, I am always seeking exciting intersections where digital media extends the possible of user practice, whether in teaching/learning or research/scholarship. So imagine my surprise when I stumbled across Journal of Number Theory videos in Science Direct. The videos feature mathematicians informally working through their theorems on a blackboard (or in front of an ocean!), describing the research of their article. This genre, commonly termed video abstract, opened up a new world of multimodal scholarship of which I was previously unaware. Video abstracts have existed since at least 2007, notably with the launch of the Journal of Visualized Experiments. As articulated in my research paper in the recent issue of the Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication, this practice is still young but has seen consistent annual growth over the past few years in terms of video abstracts published and journal rate of adoption.
Video abstracts come in many flavors, often determined by the journal discipline and guidelines in areas such as video length, technical formats, composition, copyright permissions and editorial review.* Similar to a standard article abstract, video abstracts typically cover key information on the background of the article’s study, methods used, results and discussion of impact. However, video abstracts extend the possible by providing the author a platform to communicate their research through a low-barrier, personalized, media-rich medium, in ways that would have been impossible in the print environment. For example, physicists have used the visual affordances of the medium to describe their research with animated models, chemists and biologists can be seen walking through lab experiments, and bio-medical researchers demonstrating medical procedures. These visuals are often interspersed with shots of the researcher talking to the camera or providing a voice-over. Of course, the video abstract is applicable to any discipline (and in contexts other than scholarly articles, such as conference presentations or special collections), with some adoption in humanities and social sciences, but as science journalist Jacob Berkowitz suggests, the genre has been most widely adopted in science scholarship.