Version 0.15 October 2012 working draft)

Intended audience: Scientists, information professionals, technical developers, marketing and communication professionals

While video has always been an appealing way to capture and share, the new range of video tools, social media and the Internet has revolutionized the way in which videos can be made and shared. Videos can efficiently convey large amounts of information and depict scientific procedures that would otherwise require pages upon pages of written text to achieve the same level of understanding.

Using video to record scientific results is not new, but these days, things couldn’t be easier for sharing those videos. Videos can be shared easier, faster and wider with a broad audience on the Internet. Video can also be used to show things that take place over time, in a way that would be almost impossible face-to-face. For example, research that takes place over several months, or even years, can be condensed into a short video clip and shared with other scientists and students across the world, ultimately enabling others to reproduce and/or build on the depicted research.

In a Nielsen Report (2009) on the global online landscape, it was observed that online videos and social networks resulted in increased engagement by internet users in the United States of America, with time spent on video sites shooting up by almost 2,000 percent since 2003 (1). In 2008 alone, time spent by these users on social network sites increased 73 percent.

While it can also be relatively easy and cheap to make and manipulate video material these days using cheaper or freely available hardware and software, it is important to consider whether these give the appropriate quality of video footage to be shared and that will be able to properly convey the messages intended.

This Pathway introduces video and how you can use it to improve the communication of your research outputs. 

What do you need to know?

Why you should consider videos

Video can be used to raise awareness, document research and share new scientific methodologies that can help build capacity, and generate new applications and innovation.

Online videos are an excellent medium to help you reach out to a global audience base on the Internet. Videos have the power to engage people in ways that are different to the written word. Three important sites for publishing videos are YouTube, Vimeo and BlipTV.  

Just placing a video on a video-sharing sites does not however guarantee attention. While these sites encourage and make it easy for people to watch and share online videos, approximately 20 hours of video get uploaded on YouTube every minute (2). So video footage of your research findings may not get the coverage it deserves in the light of other more entertaining videos - and people do most often go to social media sites to be entertained.  

The answer is to link your video to various social media applications or tools, such as social networking sites, blogs, microblogs, forums and message boards. The true value of social media lies here - the social networks or communities that form within these social media tools. Agricultural research and development organizations stand to benefit greatly from using social media tools as vehicles to get their message across. An engaging video that captures someone’s attention can be shared easily within his or her social network, and will move outward quickly to reach people in other networks. Think of them as strategic communication lines that branch out progressively to other networks.  

What do you need to do?

Establish the goal of the online video

What do you want to achieve? Do you want to increase the visibility of your work or your institution, explain a certain research project, or do you want to engage people in an issue? Is there a specific action that you want to see taken? These aims need to be determined so that the impact of the video can be measured. 

Identify your target audience

Who do you see as your potential audience? How do you want them to react? What reaction or behaviour change are you looking for? You need to create video that is compelling for the right groups of people.  

Decide on content

What do you want to document on video? Why is it important for your audience to know this? How will you reveal the content?

  • Videos can capture ongoing processes, interviews with people, showcasing of technologies and innovations, research activities in action, tell a story and much more. One successful video will not be enough to create the type of impact you hope to see. It will soon be forgotten in the millions of other 2 minute-long videos. Create a series of videos that communicate your organization’s message. This has a greater chance of maintaining attention and building longer-term audience support.
  • The content has to be unique to attract people. It should be interesting enough for them to share it with their network.
  • Videos have great potential to complement your communication/social media strategy. They convey thoughts, emotions and atmosphere better and faster than any other communication medium.  

Decide on how your video will be made

While there are many low cost devices that can allow videos to be captured such as Flipcams, mobile phones, and other mobile devices—the quality of the material may not be very good.

It is important to consider the quality of the videos made to be shared as the vehicle for communication can be just as important as the content being communicated.

To make a good quality video may require specialised equipment, personnel and editing facilities. If a good quality video is to be made this will require proper budgeting for resources and time.

What makes a good video?

Well-made videos can do the walking and talking for your organization at low cost. Depending on the message your organization wants to share, the video can be as simple or as elaborate as money and time allows. Your video needs to be:

  • Well-planned in script and layout
  • Short and well edited
  • High quality audio
  • With good lighting

Examples and Case Studies

  • The work of Dr. Soroush Parsa and his team several entomologists from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)- the first scientists in the CGIAR to publish in the world’s only peer-reviewed video journal: Journal of Visual Experiments (JoVE). These innovative scientists produced a 10-minute video demonstrating the procedures for assessing spittlebug resistance in brachiaria grasses and uploaded it onto JoVE for peer-review and publishing. JoVE publishes biological, medical, chemical and physical research experiments as videos, accompanied by instructions and details of possible technical problems.“The protocol reflects decades of refinement, making it a great model for other breeding efforts,” said Parsa. “We wanted to share it formally – but very intuitively – with a diverse international audience interested in crop improvement.” The video, which took almost a year to make, was produced by CIAT’s Reynaldo Pareja and supervisor Guillermo Sotelo, neither of whom had prior video production experience. Parsa now has plans to use videos to help train farmers in field sampling techniques, thereby helping to speed up the rate of scientific research. You can read the news story and also watch a special behind-the-scenes video that shows how Parsa and his team documented their research.
  • The Adaptation & Mitigation Knowledge Network (AMKN) of the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) program uses several videos that highlight the plight of people in Africa and India who are adversely affected by a changing climate. These hard-hitting videos have reached more people than any written report ever could.
  • At the Africa Rice Center in Cotonou, Benin, staff have produced videos in close collaboration with researchers, field workers, rice farmers and rice processors that incorporate lessons from participatory learning and action research. Such videos help build human and institutional capacities within the rice sector in Africa.



  1. The Nielsen Wire
  2. Mashable 
  3. The Power of Video