The video discusses the challenge of producing simple explanations for complicated topics. What choices do the people behind Kurzgesagt, a popular YouTube channel about science and knowledge, make and why? “Our contribution was that researchers could be more honest about their own doubts,” explained Jason Pridmore, one of the coordinators from ESHCC.
Pridmore is extremely enthusiastic about the video and the huge audience it will reach. “Most videos achieve four or five million views within weeks and we’ll be mentioned in this video. Those huge hits are often about dinosaurs. We don’t expect views in the tens of millions, although there are some images of dinosaurs.”
The video with Kurzgesagt is one of the results of the TRESCA project. That stands for Trustworthy, Reliable and Engaging Scientific Communication Approaches and the German (but English-language) platform Kurzgesagt is one of the project partners.
Erasmus University is the main partner in this project, which was sponsored with European funding. Jason Pridmore and Marina Tulin (both from Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication) are the coordinators. The project aims to increase confidence in science through innovations in scientific communication.
The project involves much more than just the Kurzgesagt video. Pridmore: “In early 2022, we published a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for scientists, journalists and policymakers about how to improve scientific communication and come across more reliably. Our Spanish partners are also working on a prototype of a misinformation widget.” The idea is to embed this widget in social platforms, such as WhatsApp. The widget combines existing internet tools such as a fact checker and Google image search to ascertain whether the shared information is reliable. “We aim to continue working on this prototype after the end of the project.”
More transparency and honesty are important for reliability in science, stated Pridmore. “These days, people expect science to produce answers immediately. Take face masks, for example. At the start of the pandemic it wasn’t clear how the virus spreads and whether face masks were useful.” According to Pridmore, in such cases it’s important that scientists are honest about the fact that they’re still conducting research.