October 19, 2007

The Webolution Will Be Televised

The American poet and songwriter Gil Scott-Heron once famously remarked that The Revolution Will Not Be Televised [1]. Science has undergone its own quiet revolution since the invention of the Web back in 1990. This has slowly but surely changed scientific communication, not just a Revolution but a “Webolution” [2] if you like. The recent addition of television to the Web means that, to paraphrase Gil, the Webolution will be televised. You can now watch some of the webolution in science, thanks the likes of JOVE (The Journal Of Visualised Experiments), SciVee.TV, Google Video and YouTube. What are these sites like and is their scientific and technical content any good?


JOVE is the Journal of Visualised Experiments. I first came across them (Moshe Pritsker and Nikita Bernstein) at Science Foo Camp (scifoo) in the googleplex this year. They’ve already produced 8 issues of the journal, which if I’ve understood them correctly, only include professionally shot videos, (which they arrange for you), no amateur produced content. See Microfluidic Chips Controlled with Elastomeric Microvalve Arrays for an example. JOVE are a purely commercial organisation, much like most scientific publishing companies, and their journal has yet to be indexed by http://www.pubmed.gov is now indexed by pubmed.

SciVee TV

Scivee.tv is similar to JOVE, except that it has partnered with the National Science Foundation, the Public Library of Science (PLoS) and the San Diego Superdupercomputer Center (SDSC). See the Overview of SciVee here, by Phil Bourne. Videos can be stand-alone, or associated with open-access papers already published. So for example, you can see a video for Ten Simple Rules for getting Grants, which accompanies the Ten Simple Rules series, blogged previously on nodalpoint. Scivee and JOVE have been extensively blogged by Neil and others.

YouTube / Google Video

Both SciVee and JOVE, have been inspired by YouTube, recently acquired by Google Inc, who also produce Google Video. Theres lots of rubbish on YouTube, but there are some gems tucked away in there if you look hard enough. Google Inc. for example, have been busy posting some high quality content, see for example Google Research Picks for Videos of the year, 2006 selected by some bloke called Peter Norvig. You can also Geek Out at the Google Tech Talks (also here), such as this one by Nobel laureate Craig Mello on RNA interference, shown in the embedded video below.

Continuing the theme, Jonathan Eisen points to some less serious (but no less important) uses of YouTube by scientists, in If only all scientists were this cool which links to the embedded video below.

As you can see, evolutionary biologists don’t just spend all their time building trees-of-life (aka phylogenies), they hang upside-down in them too!


The webolution has already produced lots of amateur and professional content of reasonable quality, no doubt we will see much more in the future. Video offers exciting new possibilities for scientific and technical communication, both within and outside traditional scientific communities. It’s still early days but sorry Gil, it might not be live but it looks like the webolution is going to be televised after all.

[TV Picture credit (top right), trekkyandy / Andy Melton]


  1. Gil Scott-Heron (1970?) The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
  2. R.W. Wiggins (1995) Webolution: The Evolution of the Revolutionary World-Wide Web, Internet World. http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=webolution
  3. this post originally on nodalpoint with comments

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