Exploring videos as a new article type

A picture is worth a thousand words, but a moving picture can capture a complex concept

The editors of the journal Fungal Genetics and Biology have launched a new section for video articles, enabling researchers to share their results in a new way. Here we find out more about the initiative and how it can be applied in other subject areas.

Fungal Genetics and Biology“The idea came from my own work,” explains Fungal Genetics and Biology Editor Professor Gero Steinberg. “So many aspects of cell biology are dynamic that it’s often more efficient and effective to explain findings using video. It’s something we do often in talks, but it’s traditionally not been so easy in publishing.”

The evidence supported Professor Steinberg’s experience – an analysis of the journal’s content revealed a large number of videos in the supplementary material. “This was an indication to us that videos are very popular in this research community,” recalls Dr. Elena Zudilova-Seinstra, Senior Content Innovation Manager at Elsevier. “However, those videos are often taken out of context and hence don’t serve their primary purpose.”

The video article format turns this around. In these short articles, the text provides the background to a research finding or summarizes the current status of a scientific field, while the video illustrates the main point and makes the core message of the article easier to access – as can be seen in this example.

“We saw this as a great opportunity to try something new with the journal,” says Fungal Genetics and Biology Publisher Dr. Sheba Agarwal-Jans. “It’s something we think will appeal to researchers in fungal sciences, and will certainly benefit the journal.”

Professor Steinberg discusses the video article format.

What is a video article?

The journal offers two options: ‘Video Article: Research’ and ‘Video Article: Review’. Both are short and centered around the video, but have different purposes. And both are peer-reviewed and can be cited, just like any other article.

A ‘Video Article: Research’ presents new findings. In the case of mycology, for example, it could be suitable for showing evidence of the way fungal cells grow or how cellular compartments are dynamically organized. The shorter format makes the message more focused and ‘crisp’. A rigorous peer-review process ensures the highest scientific standards.

“Due to the dynamic nature of the video, it contains much more information than a static figure and information that is complementary to a written description,” says Dr. Zudilova-Seinstra. “This helps understanding of an experiment or a simulation or a phenomena being observed.”

A ‘Video Article: Review’ presents an overview of a research field in an accessible way. The video format takes the content to new audiences, and promotes inter-disciplinary knowledge sharing. It is also perfect as an educational tool, for example enabling ecology teachers to explain mycology to their students.

“We see these things on the BBC all the time,” says Professor Steinberg. “A review video is not designed to be primary information, but rather to bring findings to a wider audience. It should show brilliant science that’s interesting, entertaining and informative.”

Advice for editors

Other journals also welcome videos as part of article submissions, such as the Video Journal and Encyclopedia of GI Endoscopy, (which publishes long articles enriched with video), and other journals carry articles which consist only of video, such as Fertility and Sterility, which has been offering this option since May 2011. However, Fungal Genetics and Biology is the first to feature articles written around a video.

“It is our first journal experimenting with this innovative article format,” says Dr. Zudilova-Seinstra. “But this can be definitely expanded to other journals in various areas, including biology, immunology, medicine, environmental science, engineering, chemistry, applied physics, material sciences and many more.”

Professor Steinberg’s first piece of advice for editors considering setting up video articles is to make sure the whole team is on board – the Publisher, the Editor-in-Chief, the Content Innovation team and the support staff.

The technical aspects are also important – how do people submit videos? What is the appropriate format? How do you ensure that video plays a central role in the article published online? Working closely with the Content Innovation and ScienceDirect teams was key to coming up with solutions for Fungal Genetics and Biology.

Finally, engaging the community and showing them that this is a format suitable for everyone is vital. “This is not a trivial point,” says Professor Steinberg. “People might just assume it’s not for them, so we need to engage people who aren’t used to making videos. It’s always difficult to motivate people to do something different, and this is what we’re currently working on.”

A good video article is:

  • Written for a wider audience: If the topic is so specialist that it can’t be explained in more accessible terms, then it would make a better full-length article
  • Informative. It is a peer-reviewed article, after all. It should inform the reader and direct them to further resources
  • Educational
  • High quality

Contributor biographies

Professor Gero Steinberg

Professor Dr. Gero Steinberg holds a chair in cell biology, heads the Bioimaging Center and is Honorary Professor at the School of Medicine at the University of Exeter in the UK. He is an associate editor of several journals, and has been on the editorial board of Fungal Genetics and Biology since 2009. He studied biology at the Technical University Darmstadt and University of Kiel, Germany, followed by a PhD at University of Munich, Germany. After habilitation in genetics and cell biology, he became research group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, Marburg. In 2007, he relocated to the UK. Professor Dr. Steinberg’s research covers all aspects of intracellular motility in filamentous fungi. He pioneered the field of fungal cell biology, with more than 80 publications, and promoted his research in more than 120 invited national and international lectures.

Sheba Agarwal-Jans

Dr. Sheba Agarwal-Jans is the microbiology publisher at Elsevier. She obtained her PhD in cell and molecular biology and genetics from the Erasmus Medical Center (Rotterdam) in 2008. Before joining Elsevier in 2011, she worked at the Vrije Universiteit Medical Center in Amsterdam as a postdoctoral fellow. She is responsible for 15 journals in the fields of microbiology and mycology, including Current Opinion in Microbiology, Epidemics and Fungal Genetics and Biology.

Elena Zudilova-Seinstra

Dr. Elena Zudilova-Seinstra is Senior Content Innovation Manager for Journal & Data Solutions at Elsevier Research Applications and Platform. She joined Elsevier in 2010 as a Senior User Experience Specialist for the User Centered Design group. She holds a PhD in computer science and an MSc degree in technical engineering from the St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University in Russia. Before joining Elsevier, she worked at the University of Amsterdam , SARA Computing and Networking Services and Corning Inc.

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