Menus Subscribe Search

Follow us


caxton-painting

By JoVE, the essence of academic publishing is changing. (PAINTING: CAXTON SHOWING THE FIRST SPECIMEN OF HIS PRINTING TO KING EDWARD IV AT THE ALMONRY, WESTMINSTER, DANIEL MACLISE, 1851)

Academic Publishing Flirts With the You(Test)Tube Age

• June 04, 2013 • 5:48 PM

By JoVE, the essence of academic publishing is changing. (PAINTING: CAXTON SHOWING THE FIRST SPECIMEN OF HIS PRINTING TO KING EDWARD IV AT THE ALMONRY, WESTMINSTER, DANIEL MACLISE, 1851)

A look at the Journal of Visualized Experiments, the first journal devoted to publishing scientific research in a video format.

Pacific Standard keeps a watchful eye on the academic press, both for social science-oriented story ideas and because our major benefactor is SAGE Publications, a big player in the journal world. A lot of that observation focuses on weighty issues, like the future of open access or peer review’s feet of clay.

Then there’s JoVE, the Journal of Visualized Experiments, which bills itself as the “first scientific video journal.” They also describe themselves, in somewhat more Ivory Tower-y terms, as “the first and only PubMed/MEDLINE-indexed, peer-reviewed journal devoted to publishing scientific research in a video format.”

What this means in practice is that the experimental portions of technical scientific papers, instead of being laid out in a couple of dense paragraphs, is videotaped and moves from a necessary if clumsy part of the narrative to center stage. Science is developing wonderful ways to visualize data, but rarely process. Sure, there are a few things you might stumble across on YouTube, and SciVee posts various journal-related videos, but those are clearly sideshows to the heavy lifting in print.

Let’s say you were studying how creatures learn, and you wanted to do a paper on training honeybees to stick out their tongues when their antennae touch something. You could, of course, prepare a lovely academic paper, titled, say, “Tactile Conditioning and Movement Analysis of Antennal Sampling Strategies in Honey Bees (Apis mellifera L.),” as Samir Mujagić and his three co-authors at Germany’s Bielefeld University did.

In a release on the paper (or should we called it a “taper”?) co-author and cyber-biologist Volker Dürr, whose lab was the experiment’s home, explained the rationale for the work: “We work with honey bees because they are an important model system for behavioral biology and neurobiology. They can be trained. If you can train an insect to respond to a certain stimulus, then you can ask the bees questions in the form of ‘Is A like B? If so, stick your tongue out.'”

But rather than immediately run to a leading journal in their field to publish the results, the authors made a beeline for JoVE to present their methods. That journal both presented their words (online), and hosted a 10:14 video that demonstrated preparing the bees, conditioning their tactile responses, and then recording their movements and analyzing that data. Believe me, unless you’re a real devotee of the kinematics of fine-scale antennal sampling patterns, it makes much more compelling viewing than reading. That’s actually more true on JoVE, where much of the written material is in the form of numbered points so you can read along to the video.

Of course, after prefacing by saying we at PS look at weighty matters, I chose a quirky example to illustrate JoVE’s approach. JoVE’s intentions, however, are absolutely serious. To set the scene, here’s Alice Bonasio at Mendeley:

As science advances, processes and tools also become more complex. Procedures and techniques such as growing stem cells are tremendously complicated and difficult to accurately follow with just a set of written instructions, and visiting labs in person can be a very expensive alternative beyond the resources of many researchers. This challenge of poor experiment reproducibility is what JoVE tries to address, claiming that traditional written and static picture-based print journals are no longer sufficient to accurately convey the intricacies of modern research. Translating findings from the bench to clinical therapies rely on the rapid transfer of knowledge within the research community.

Reproducibility—remember Kayt Sukel’s piece “Replicate This” in February?—is a bugaboo across the sciences. JoVE won’t make the problem go away, but it might make it less frequent, as Josh Fischman discussed in a nice article for The Chronicle of Higher Education last October:

While many scientists believe that the video approach will ease the replication problem, it isn’t clear that visuals will make the issue go away. [Bayer HealthCare’s Khusru] Asadullah, author of the Nature Reviews report, believes—along with other researchers—that the primary culprit is the predilection of scientists for publishing positive results and omitting negative ones. So scientists reading JoVE may follow a method faithfully but still be unpleasantly surprised when the results differ from their expectations.

[Aaron] Kolski-Andreaco, the content director of JoVE, agrees that the video journal is not going to mean an end to irreproducible results. “We aren’t claiming to solve this problem,” he notes in an email, “but rather contribute to making methods more reproducible from lab to lab.”

JoVE has been around since 2006, and as of today has an archive of 2,410 articles. Since last year its profile has been rising as it adds more disciplines—chemistry, behavioral sciences, and environmental sciences so far this year alone–and branches out from its origins in biology.

We’ll be watching. Literally.

Michael Todd
Most of Michael Todd's career has been spent in newspaper journalism, ranging from papers in the Marshall Islands to tiny California farming communities. Before joining the publishing arm of the Miller-McCune Center, he was managing editor of the national magazine Hispanic Business.

More From Michael Todd

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

October 21 • 4:00 AM

She’s Cheating on Him, You Can Tell Just by Watching Them

New research suggests telltale signs of infidelity emerge even in a three- to five-minute video.


October 21 • 2:00 AM

Cheating Demographic Doom: Pittsburgh Exceptionalism and Japan’s Surprising Economic Resilience

Don’t judge a metro or a nation-state by its population numbers.


October 20 • 4:00 PM

The Bird Hat Craze That Sparked a Preservation Movement

How a fashion statement at the turn of the 19th century led to the creation of the first Audubon societies.


October 20 • 2:00 PM

The Risk of Getting Killed by the Police If You Are White, and If You Are Black

An analysis of killings by police shows outsize risk for young black males.


October 20 • 12:00 PM

Love and Hate in Israel and Palestine

Psychologists find that parties to a conflict think they’re motivated by love while their enemies are motivated by hate.


October 20 • 11:00 AM

My Dog Comes First: The Importance of Pets to Homeless Youth

Dogs and cats have both advantages and disadvantages for street-involved youth.


October 20 • 10:00 AM

Homophobia Is Not a Thing of the Past

Despite growing support for LGBT rights and recent decisions from the Supreme Court regarding the legality of same-sex marriage, the battle for acceptance has not yet been decided.


October 20 • 8:00 AM

Big Boobs Matter Most

Medical mnemonics are often scandalous and sexist, but they help the student to both remember important facts and cope with challenging new experiences.


October 20 • 6:00 AM

When Disease Becomes Political: The Likely Electoral Fallout From Ebola

Will voters blame President Obama—and punish Democrats in the upcoming mid-term elections—for a climate of fear?


October 20 • 4:00 AM

Coming Soon: The Anatomy of Ignorance


October 17 • 4:00 PM

What All Military Families Need to Know About High-Cost Lenders

Lessons from over a year on the beat.


October 17 • 2:00 PM

The Majority of Languages Do Not Have Gendered Pronouns

A world without “he.” Or “she.”


October 17 • 11:01 AM

How to Water a Farm in Sandy Ground

Physicists investigate how to grow food more efficiently in fine-grained soil.


October 17 • 10:00 AM

Can Science Fiction Spur Science Innovation?

Without proper funding, the answer might not even matter.


October 17 • 8:00 AM

Seattle, the Incredible Shrinking City

Seattle is leading the way in the micro-housing movement as an affordable alternative to high-cost city living.


October 17 • 6:00 AM

‘Voodoo Death’ and How the Mind Harms the Body

Can an intense belief that you’re about to die actually kill you? Researchers are learning more about “voodoo death” and how it isn’t limited to superstitious, foreign cultures.


October 17 • 4:00 AM

That Arts Degree Is Paying Off

A survey of people who have earned degrees in the arts find they are doing relatively well, although their education didn’t provide much guidance on managing a career.


October 16 • 4:00 PM

How (Some) Economists Are Like Doomsday Cult Members

Cognitive dissonance and clinging to paradigms even in the face of accumulated anomalous facts.


October 16 • 2:00 PM

The Latest—and Most Mysterious—Player in the Nasty Battle Over Net Neutrality

As the FCC considers how to regulate Internet providers, the telecom industry’s stealth campaign for hearts and minds encompasses everything from art installations to LOLcats.


October 16 • 12:00 PM

How Many Ads Is Too Many Ads?

The conundrum of online video advertising.


October 16 • 11:00 AM

Unlocking Consciousness

A study of vegetative patients closes in on the nature of consciousness.


October 16 • 10:00 AM

The False Promises of Higher Education

Danielle Henderson spent six years and $60,000 on college and beyond. The effects of that education? Not as advertised.


October 16 • 8:00 AM

Faster Justice, Closer to Home: The Power of Community Courts

Community courts across the country are fighting judicial backlog and lowering re-arrest rates.


October 16 • 6:00 AM

Killing Your Husband to Save Yourself

Without proper legal instruments, women with abusive partners are often forced to make a difficult choice: kill or be killed.


October 16 • 4:00 AM

Personality Traits Linked to Specific Diseases

New research finds neurotic people are more likely to suffer a serious health problem.


Follow us


Love and Hate in Israel and Palestine

Psychologists find that parties to a conflict think they're motivated by love while their enemies are motivated by hate.

How to Water a Farm in Sandy Ground

Physicists investigate how to grow food more efficiently in fine-grained soil.

Unlocking Consciousness

A study of vegetative patients closes in on the nature of consciousness.

Advice for Emergency Alert Systems: Don’t Cry Wolf

A survey finds college students don't always take alerts seriously.

Brain’s Reward Center Does More Than Manage Rewards

Nucleus accumbens tracks many different connections in the world, a new rat study suggests.

The Big One

One company, Amazon, controls 67 percent of the e-book market in the United States—down from 90 percent five years ago. September/October 2014 new-big-one-5

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.