The challenges and opportunities posed by the burgeoning use of video in research content

The challenges and opportunities posed by the burgeoning use of video in research content

Video recordings have been used as part of research works for more than half a century. Before the advent of the Internet and the digital revolution that has played out over the last two decades, video recordings were typically used in research contexts as anthropological, ethnographic, or sociolinguistic documents.

Today, data storage and transmission costs are getting even lower, recording equipment is cheaper than ever before and gargantuan amounts of video data are now freely accessible on video sharing platforms. All of this has ensured that videos are now being used in research content to a much greater extent and for a wider range of purposes.

For instance, in addition to using video to document behavior, researchers can now:

– use videos generated by research participants (e.g. video diaries),

– analyze videos recorded by third parties (e.g. videos posted on YouTube), and

– use videos to prompt discussions with or among participants.

In addition to such uses, video is also being used in a more general way throughout academia, and at an ever-increasing pace to boot. This includes the growing use of video abstracts and video summaries, the recording and dissemination of seminars and conferences, and even the production of videos in lieu of textbooks by subject matter experts.

In light of these rapid developments, it would be worthwhile to examine some of the challenges resulting from the burgeoning use of video in research content, and in academia in general.

Why researchers love video

Before exploring these challenges, however, it is important to understand the benefits associated with the use of video in research, as well as the issues that accompany it (discussed in the next section).

Video data is particularly useful in fields such as education, healthcare, and management studies.

In these domains, video recordings can be used to:

– clearly demonstrate scientific processes/experiments (in the hard sciences),

– capture complex and simultaneous interactions between participants and their environment, along with nonverbal cues,

– establish a permanent record of an event or interaction, and

– analyze events retrospectively and repeatedly.

It is quite clear that video as a medium is unparalleled when it comes to the uses mentioned above, due to video clips being much more informationally dense than audio clips and textual descriptions.

Issues surrounding the use of video in research content

Nevertheless, there are certain issues resulting from the use of video in research that must be navigated skilfully in order to:

– protect the integrity of research works,

– prevent harm to research participants, and

– maximize the utility of video recordings used in research.

These issues can be broadly categorized as being either ethics-related issues or technical issues.

Ethics-related issues include the following:

– Researchers may exhibit unconscious biases in selecting videos or video segments.

– The authenticity and ownership of third-party videos must be established.

– Researchers must address the fact that being on video can affect how people behave (the Hawthorne effect).

– For a proper analysis, the faces and voices of participants might need to be identifiable; this fact, combined with improper data management or weak security, can jeopardize the privacy, dignity, and safety of participants.

Technical issues, on the other hand, include the following:

– For video content to be truly useful to scholars, it has to be indexed properly and has to have sufficiently rich metadata associated with it.

– Depending on its purpose, any audio-visual content used should be of a high enough quality, with reasonably crisp sound quality and a sufficiently high resolution.

– Video files typically require much more storage space than text and audio.

– Video content presents its own accessibility challenges. For example, the delivery of transcripts and/or closed captions is hugely important. The size of video files also means that download speeds and/or data streaming allowances can become barriers to access for some people.

The future of video in research content: growing pains

The many clear benefits offered by video content to researchers mean that the use of video in research, and in academia in general, is bound to grow steadily over time. Several organizations and start-ups have recognized this fact, and have been working to make it easier for researchers and publishers to create, publish, and monetize video content.

Given the ongoing explosive growth in the use of video in research content, it has become critically important to tackle the challenges resulting from the issues mentioned above. All the stakeholders in this domain, including academics, universities and publishers, will have to work in concert to address them, so that academic video content does not end up having much less of an impact than it otherwise could have had.

The most important of these challenges are:

1. The establishment of a general framework or project-specific protocols for video recording in research settings

Video recording for research purposes involves a plethora of technical and protocol-oriented variables. For instance, the equipment used to capture sound and video is a technical variable, while the approach used to obtain participant consent is an example of a protocol-oriented variable.

It is becoming evident to institutions that they need to try and standardize such variables, to the extent possible, by laying down guidelines or establishing certain protocols. For instance, if universities or departments own high-quality equipment that researchers are allowed to use, then the former can insist that the latter make use of such equipment in the interest of quality, unless they have something even better that they can use.

As far as protocol-oriented variables are concerned, institutions will soon find it imperative to set up protocols that address most, if not all, of the ethics-related issues discussed above. It is even possible that over time, an international protocol might emerge through the synthesis of more local protocols.

Thus, in the long run, it is likely that academic videos will end up adhering to certain standards, just like research papers do today for getting published in journals.

2. Proper indexing

In today’s world, to a great extent, the impact that a piece of research can have depends on how easily it can be retrieved online. If a paper is not discoverable, academics are unlikely to cite it or build upon the research contained within it. The same principle holds true for videos as well.

Thus, it is going to be increasingly important for academics and institutions to ensure that academic video content is indexed by general search engines (e.g. Google, Bing), academic search engines (e.g. Google Scholar), and domain-specific databases. While video metadata (discussed below) plays a critical role in such indexing, video segmentation and transcription also generate a wealth of information that indexers can use. There already exist several AI tools that can automatically transcribe, translate and segment video clips, and such tools are likely to become increasingly indispensable.

3. Metadata standardization

In general, metadata is one of the most important means to increase the utility of any sort of content, be it textual or audio-visual.

Metadata typically includes several different kinds of annotations, including tags, keywords, identifiers and file information. Metadata makes it possible to retrieve relevant content when a search is carried out, and to associate different pieces of content with each other.

In addition to the conventional kinds of metadata mentioned above, videos can also be augmented with abstracts, DOIs, MARC records, ORCID IDs, and captions.

The National Information Standards Organization (NISO) has already put together some recommendations regarding metadata standards for audio and video content; such recommendations, springing forth from various sources, are likely to become more common over the near term.

4. The cost of accessing academic journals

Video abstracts, video-based observations and video supplements to papers, being part of academic research, also have to be reviewed and published just like ordinary text-based papers. Publishing video content also means hosting it, backing it up, and securing it so as to ensure that no research participants face any negative repercussions.

Given that video files are typically much larger in size than text or image files, and given that reviewing videos is a time-consuming and labor-intensive process, an increase in the amount of video in research content should translate into greater overall costs for academic publishers. These costs could eventually be passed on to researchers and institutions, which could make academic video content specifically or academic content, in general, more expensive to access.

For video, the only way forwards is upwards

While it is clear that video will become even more entrenched in academia over time, as of now, many aspects surrounding the use of video in research are still being worked out, such as the relevant business models and the “productification” of recorded conferences and seminars. Nevertheless, with various kinds of guidelines likely to be drawn up in the near future, and with AI tools making it easier to extract large amounts of information from videos, it seems safe to say that over the next few years, the trajectory of the video within academia is going to trace a steep upward curve.

HighWire Best Practice Webinar on the growing importance of video in scholarly publishing scheduled for October!   

We are conducting a webinar on October 4th at 10am (ET) addressing some of the issues brought up in this blog post. Presenters from the NISO working group that established video and audio metadata guidelines will discuss those guidelines and the importance of good metadata has for discoverability. Access Innovations will discuss the challenges with developing tagging and taxonomy for video content.

Dylan Ruediger, Senior Analyst from Ithaka S+R will talk about how event streaming and video conferencing are becoming part of the scholarly record. And Oliver Rickard, HighWire Product Director, will explore how publishers are currently using video to supplement their online content and how video is becoming a first-class research object.

Please mark your calendar and join us by registering here!

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