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Scholars on soap boxes: Science communication and dissemination in TED videos

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Abstract

Online videos provide a novel, and often interactive, platform for the popularization of science. One successful collection is hosted on the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) website. This study uses a range of bibliometric (citation) and webometric (usage and bookmarking) indicators to examine TED videos in order to provide insights into the type and scope of their impact. The results suggest that TED Talks impact primarily the public sphere, with about three-quarters of a billion total views, rather than the academic realm. Differences were found among broad disciplinary areas, with art and design videos having generally lower levels of impact but science and technology videos generating otherwise average impact for TED. Many of the metrics were only loosely related, but there was a general consensus about the most popular videos as measured through views or comments on YouTube and the TED site. Moreover, most videos were found in at least one online syllabus and videos in online syllabi tended to be more viewed, discussed, and blogged. Less-liked videos generated more discussion, although this may be because they are more controversial. Science and technology videos presented by academics were more liked than those by nonacademics, showing that academics are not disadvantaged in this new media environment.

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