Ever since I saw this amazing little 2009 video abstract on seam carving I have had the desire to make a video to illustrate one of my own papers. I was inspired by the possibility of using three minutes of video to convey simply, elegantly and efficiently a complex piece of work that may have required thousands of hours of hard work to produce. That lead quickly to the idea of an archive that would show the videos for the papers of the day (perhaps called varxiv.org or marxiv.org :).
With Carolina Ödman and James Newling we had a first go here; attempting to explain boosting applied to supernova classification. The more general idea is of an archive which would be a video analogue of the text arxiv we know and love, a visual repository of summaries of the papers of the day. Imagine watching 20 minutes of interesting videos on your iPhone on the train or at your desk while you drink coffee, instead of reading abstracts and skimming through papers in an attempt to understand what the paper is about? What a pleasure!
Why do we need this? Simple: overload.
Nobody has time to read anything but a fraction of the papers being put out every week and to be honest I think a lot of people suffer from extreme overload and essentially end up not reading any papers. Journal clubs combat this successfully sometimes but have their own drawbacks.
Augmenting papers with technical video summaries would help mitigate the overload significantly I think, at least for a few years. I stress here that I am primarily thinking that the audience will be a technical one though the equivalent idea of videos for the general public is interesting of course.
Historically the bottleneck for this idea was the need for sophisticated software and skills. But iMovie and Windows Movie Maker mean that it is now relatively easy to produce professional looking videos. Now it is just a case of getting familiar with the technology and making time for producing the video production. And if it took you 1000 hours to do the research, surely another 10 to make a great video to communicate it to your core target audience makes great sense?
As a result widespread video abstract use in traditional science subjects is clearly coming. It is just a matter of when and how. Papers with compelling video content that make it easier to digest and remember the content of the papers will be more memorable and hence will tend to get cited more, and in the bibliometrics-mad academic world we are rapidly entering, that will be a critical advantage that will, I suspect, drive adoption over the next decade. What excites me personally though is the idea of people producing compelling short videos that will connect me to cool new ideas and teach me interesting new things which is, after all, why I became a scientist in the first place.
[I would like to thank Carolina, Robert de Mello Koch, Hillary Sanctuary and others for discussions on this topic.]