Author: Joachim Allgaier, Hochschule Fulda, Germany

Format: Individual paper

YouTube now has almost 2,7 billion users worldwide. It is one of the most popular of various online video-sharing platforms, that have become influential information sources for many people around the world. This also concerns scientific, technological and science-related topics such as COVID-19, vaccination, climate change, artificial intelligence, biotechnology and many others. The potential of online videos for public science and technology communication is in fact huge. However, since many online-video platforms do not have gatekeeping and quality control mechanisms in place they are also accused of being spreaders of misinformation, disinformation and hostile conspiracy theories related to science, technology and research. In this talk some of the policies that online social media platforms have set up as potential answers to such accusations, are reviewed, and the available evidence on whether they are successful or not is assessed. Here the routes taken sometimes vary considerably and platformspecific problems will be presented and discussed critically. Only very few of the platforms have specific policies installed. In the cases where community rules or guidelines are formulated these are often very vague and general, and often it is nontransparent when and what content or creators are sanctioned. A particularly interesting example is YouTube’s policy for demonetizing content that denies anthropogenic climate change. Here only very specific statements concerning anthropogenic climate change denial are affected while other statements that oppose climate science are not affected by this specific policy. This development points to the necessity that science communication research must also develop an understanding of anti-science discourses in order to assist effective potential ways of policing these in popular online social media platforms.

Author: Joachim Allgaier – RWTH Aachen University, Germany


  • Andrea Geipel – Technical University of Munich and Deutsches Museum Munich, Germany
  • Lê Nguyên Hoang – École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland
  • Craig Rosa – KQED, United States
  • Gianna Savoie – University of Otago, New Zealand

In this roundtable discussion, we are interested in the impact of online video-sharing on the public communication of science and technology. The online video format has great potential for public science and technology communication, but there are also pitfalls and potential problems that need to be thoughtfully reflected upon. One issue we are going to discuss is the role of particular online video-sharing platforms, such as YouTube, Vimeo, and Facebook Watch. YouTube, for instance, now has two billion users worldwide and is the second most popular search engine after Google in many countries. Many citizens around the world use it as a source of information about science and technology issues.

During the discussion, we will explore the production context of online videos about science and technology. Who creates and uploads videos with science and technology content and what are their intentions and purposes for these videos? Another interesting question concerns the differences and similarities between professional, amateur, institutional and other actors who produce online videos about science and technology. We are going to discuss how the different creators of videos about science and technology legitimize themselves and what audiences they want to reach for what reasons. We also would like to know more about the differences in practices and intentions of journalists, YouTubers, scientists, scientific institutions and others when it comes to online video-sharing. Furthermore, we will discuss what kind of video formats, genres, videographic styles etc., are most successful, widespread and adequate for public science communication. Another point that will be discussed with the invited experts is how online videos on science and technology are perceived by various audiences and how these need to be addressed.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Roundtable discussion
Theme: Technology

Author: Joachim Allgaier – RWTH Aachen University, Germany

Just before the European election a YouTube video titled “The destruction of the CDU” caused political outrage in Germany. The video by the popular German YouTuber Rezo attacked the conservative Government party, CDU, mainly for climate inaction but also for other shortcomings. As a reaction to the following heavy attacks on Rezo and his video from the political establishment, an alliance of more than 70 popular German YouTubers got together to release a second video which had only one message: The YouTubers asked their followers not to vote for the Government or far right parties, because they would ignore the expertise of scientists and the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change and therefore would be unable to provide sustainable solutions for the future.

The Government parties experienced dramatic losses in the European Elections and the single biggest winner of new voters was the Green Party. It has been argued that the two YouTube videos had a stronger impact on public engagement and opinion than many of the previous debates initiated by scientists and journalists. This debate is still ongoing and further popular German YouTubers jumped on the bandwagon to attack the climate policy of the German government. They form a very unusual and extremely successful alliance of influencers, academics and scientists in order to increase the pressure on the German government on climate protection.

This contribution presents research in progress on the use of scientific expertise by the involved YouTubers and the role of the scientific experts in the debate, for instance, as providers of scientific fact-checks. In addition, it will also be discussed if and what kind of new forms of expertise emerge on YouTube and also what role authenticity, amenability and interactive dialogue plays for the perceived credibility of the involved actors on YouTube.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Insight talk
Theme: Transformation

Author: Joachim Allgaier

Traditionally journalistic mass media and compulsory and informal science education were the main sources of citizens’ knowledge about science, technology and medicine. The availability of new online media has changed the media and information infrastructure. The use of digital and social media for scientific practice and science communication and its impact on public perceptions of and citizens’ knowledge about science, technology and medicine still need to be examined.

From the point of view of scientific institutions the problem with social online media is that virtually everybody can post content there. There are no gatekeepers and hence no quality control is taking place. Social media websites must also be understood as social communities where conspiracies, false and potentially harmful and inaccurate information on scientific topics can be disseminated. However, they can also be powerful tools for disseminating useful and correct scientific information and to engage and involve citizens with and in scientific research.

The research presented here is particularly interested in the role of online video-sharing platforms, such as YouTube, for the public communication of science. In many countries YouTube is the second most popular search engine after Google. Many citizens do use it as a source of information about issues concerning science, technology and medicine.

In the presentation results from an empirical pilot study on climate science and climate manipulation on YouTube will be presented. The results indicate that YouTube can be a very valuable tool for informing citizens about science for some key issues. However, users of YouTube are also confronted with conspiracy theories and erroneous and misleading information that strongly deviates from scientific consensus views. Hence, the public communication and discussion of science via YouTube offers new opportunities but also faces serious and difficult challenges that should be addressed by combining science communication and (social) media research.