To Trust or Not To Trust? Exploring the credibility and trustworthiness of science communicators in online video lectures

Author: Lars König – University of Münster, Germany

Co-author: Regina Jucks – University of Münster

Online Video Lectures (OVLs) are a form of science communication with the potential to reach hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. In recent years, the number of available OVLs has grown rapidly and various hosting platforms have come into existence. Public universities (e.g.,, business companies (e.g., and private individuals (e.g., use these platforms to upload and broadcast their self-produced OVLs.

In the science communication community, OVLs have triggered many positive reactions, mainly because OVLs are perceived as a cost-efficient educational tool and numerous prestigious institutions (e.g., Harvard University) have already started to produce their own OVLs. However, most science communication experts have neglected a risk that is associated with OVLs: There is no generally accepted gate-keeping institution that guarantees that OVLs provide reliable information. In the worst case, OVLs can be misused to manipulate the attitudes and behaviors of their audiences.

How do OVL users decide whether they can trust an OVL? To answer this question, we developed an OVL and varied (a) the professional affiliations of the shown science communicator and (b) the scientific evidence he presented, resulting in a 2×2 between-subject experimental design. After watching, 143 participants rated the OVL on various outcome variables, ranging from the credibility of the provided information to the likability of the science communicator.

Results showed that the professional affiliations of the science communicator and the scientific evidence that he presented interact with each other and jointly influence the perceived likability (F(1, 139) = 4.213, p = .042) and Machiavellianism (F(1, 139) = 4.596, p = .034) of the science communicator as well as the educational quality of the OVL (F(1, 139) = 4.790, p = .030). We discuss our further findings and develop best practice guidelines for science communicators who want to produce OVLs.

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

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Science
Area of interest: Investigating science communication practices