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PLoS and Partners Offer Video Communications With SciVee
by
Posted On August 27, 2007
With online video the hottest content on the Web these days, it is a logical progression to see it move beyond popular entertainment into more serious efforts—instruction, conference presentations, video journals, and scholarly research explanations. The scientific community in particular seems to be embracing the new medium to enhance the dissemination and comprehension of science. SciVee (www.scivee.tv) is a new site that lets scientists communicate their works as multimedia presentations incorporated with the content of their published articles. SciVee is operated in partnership with the open access publisher the Public Library of Science (PLoS), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC). The so-called "YouTube for science" site has already garnered a great deal of interest and buzz in the blogosphere and media, even though it is still in "alpha" stage and its founders weren’t planning for a launch at this time.

According to one founder, Philip Bourne of the University of California–San Diego (UCSD) and founding editor in chief of PLoS Computational Biology, he talked about the project at a scientific meeting and the buzz began prematurely. "The good news," he said, "is that more than 44,000 people have already looked at the site in the last few days; the bad news is that there’s not enough content yet." (There look to be five pubcasts currently available.) The site is approaching 6 million hits and is drawing interest worldwide. The beta release is planned for September, and already some 700 people have volunteered to be beta testers.

The project began with some pilot pubcasts done at UCSD to test video formats and has involved the other PLoS editors. There are currently eight people on the SciVee team. The SDSC is providing the site hosting.

Bourne said that SciVee makes it easier and faster to keep up with current scientific literature because it can deliver the key points of articles in an enjoyable way—and one to which younger audiences in particular can relate. "I think it’s a natural evolution of what YouTube created. It’s what grad students of tomorrow will be used to," said Bourne.

The goal is to improve the dissemination and comprehension of science. It not only presents a platform for researchers to explain and share their work but a communication medium for commentary and discussion. According to the site: "SciVee also facilitates the creation of communities around specific articles and keywords. Use this medium to meet peers and future collaborators that share your particular research interests." Users will be able to subscribe to channels and groups of interest.

SciVee allows authors to upload an article they have already published with a video or podcast presentation (about 10 minutes long) they have made that describes the highlights of the paper. The author can then synchronize the video with the content of the article (text, figures, etc.) so the relevant parts of the article appear as the author discusses them during the video presentation. The result is a SciVee pubcast. The site provides several tutorials on recording a video.

In 2003, PLoS launched as a nonprofit venture to provide scientists and physicians with high-quality, high-profile journals in which to publish. Under the open access model, PLoS journals are immediately available online, with no charges for access and no restrictions on subsequent redistribution or use, as long as the author(s) and source are cited, as specified by the Creative Commons Attribution License. PLoS now publishes eight journals. SciVee currently lists content "channels" that correspond to these eight titles.

At this point, the site only accepts articles from PLoS journals. Bourne said that by the end of the year, the site will allow participants to upload all publications held in PubMed Central (a free digital archive of life sciences journals) and will accept abstracts from journals that are not open access. It will also accept papers in fields outside the life sciences. In the next phase, users will be able to create a personal profile and join or create their own science communities.

In addition, the site will eventually allow scientists to upload videos unrelated to a journal publication. "These might be scientific laboratory demonstrations, additional videos that support an existing pubcast, video responses to other scientific videos and pubcasts on our site, or another type of video that supports your scientific work. All these types of videos will be separated from the pubcast channel content, which is based on peer-reviewed publications, in order to ensure that our site features high quality scientific content."

There are currently several other science video Web sites, but they lack the broad support of major organizations behind them, as SciVee has. The Journal of Visualized Experiments (www.jove.com) is an online-only research journal that allows researchers to publish videos of their experiments and methods.

ScienceHack (http://sciencehack.com) is a video search engine for science videos; it is also in alpha release. Its database is relatively small, but its ambitious goal is "to index every science video on the Internet."

Blogger Deepak Singh, founder of Bioscreencast (http://bioscreencast.com), another recently launched multimedia site for the bio/life sciences, wrote: "This is big on many fronts; the organizations involved [in SciVee] alone validate everything we’ve believed in here at Bioscreencast, and slowly, video for scientific content and online communication around scientific works, whether published or user generated in our case[,] is going to continue to grow."

One biologist blogger poked fun at the technical glitches in the current release, saying it has potential but at this point even has some unintentional moments of humor. She said it looked like "the speakers are standing on tiptoe, desperately trying to [peek] their heads above the large bits of text that appear mysteriously on the screen and can’t be removed."

A biotech blogger claimed that SciVee is now his favorite science video site, but he doesn’t like the "fluorescent text links on the white background."

Another blogger commented: "This should be a popular and useful Web site. In the particular field of science research and papers, there is a built-in, existing audience that communicates with one another all the time. Offering this site should make it faster and easier for interested people to accomplish that task, while discovering potential interesting work they may not have otherwise known about."

Given the buzz already, this new resource should prove to be quite promising in meeting the dissemination and community needs of scientists. Bourne said the SciVee team is grateful for all the interest and support during this development phase. The overwhelmingly enthusiastic response has already guided the team in shaping its future plans.

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Links

The Public Library of Science (PLoS): www.plos.org
The National Science Foundation (NSF): www.nsf.gov
The San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC): www.sdsc.edu
Creative Commons: http://creativecommons.org
Creative Commons Attribution License: www.plos.org/journals/license.html
PubMed Central: www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov

For background on SciVee, see "Reinventing Scholarly Communication for the Electronic Age," by J. Lynn Fink and Philip E. Bourne, CTWatch Quarterly, Vol. 3, No. 3, August 2007, www.ctwatch.org/quarterly/articles/2007/08/reinventing-scholarly-communication-for-the-electronic-age.


Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.


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