Author: Lloyd Davis – University of Otago, New Zealand


  • Michael Bourk – Gulf University for Science and Technology, Kuwait
  • Wiebke Finkler – University of Otago, New Zealand
  • Bienvenido León – University of Navarra, Spain

Society is undergoing a transformation in the way people consume media: increasingly we are using online on-demand videos, accessed mostly on mobile devices. The fastest growing segment of online videos about science is User Generated Content (UGC) that uses an infotainment style of delivery, and these videos are proving significantly more popular than professionally generated content that traditionally uses an expository style of narration. Here, we test the effect of an infotainment or expository narration for: (i) engaging viewers and (ii) enhancing their understanding of science.

We produced two identical videos about climate change save for their style of narration: each contained the same information, but one had an infotainment narration; the other, an expository narration. The narrations were available in English and Spanish. We tested 870 participants (419 English; 451 Spanish), who were directed to a website to undertake a survey in which they were randomly presented with either the infotainment or expository version of the video.

We found viewers were significantly more likely to believe the expository narration and liked it significantly more than the infotainment version. This held true for English and Spanish viewers, irrespective of their age, sex, or online viewing habits. However, viewers without a university education liked the infotainment version significantly more.

Notably, viewers of the infotainment video performed significantly better at recalling information than did those watching the expository version, and this relationship was consistent regardless of where the information was given throughout the videos.

In conclusion, the dramatic rise of UGC and its reliance on infotainment is a cultural phenomenon. While generally perceived as less authoritative than traditional expository narrations, the focus on infotainment may actually prove advantageous for science communication by increasing information recall for all viewers and increasing engagement with science by one of the hardest publics to reach: those without a university education.

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

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Transformation

Author: Lloyd Davis, Centre for Science Communication, New Zealand

Universities engage in outreach activities about science for a variety of reasons, including enhancing their reputation, recruitment and the personal satisfaction of those involved. Such activities are typically portrayed as a form of science communication whereby the public is informed about science. Outreach activities may be classified according to their costs, their reach (i.e. the audience size) and their persistence (i.e. the duration of the activity and how long it is available to the public). When costs of many activities traditionally favoured by universities as outreach for science are weighed against their reach and persistence, they prove not to be the most effective forms of outreach in terms of the value they provide. Encouraging and facilitating staff (and, where appropriate, students) to engage in interviews about science with the media as well as to popularise science – through writing books and articles for the popular press and, where possible, being involved in documentaries about science – are amongst the most effective means by which universities can communicate science to the public. Enhancing such practices will require universities to recognise and reward staff for popularising science, rather than rewarding only publications and citations in scientific journals. Online outreach activities are also an area of great potential when it comes to persistence and the size of the audience. When using more traditional forms of outreach – such as public talks, café scientifiques and U3A – their effectiveness may be enhanced if they occur regularly or are packaged as a group of activities in a way that the public can subscribe to them. Finally, there may be social reasons favouring outreach activities by universities that go beyond a simple cost-benefit analysis, such as engaging indigenous peoples in science.