We dare you to explain science in one minute

The online world is evolving rapidly. In recent years, video content has come to dominate news consumption, as well as social media platforms like Facebook. JAX’s solution? “Bite-size science to help you keep up with the latest breakthroughs.”

Since October 2016, JAX has produced four informative “Minute to Understanding” videos, and has distributed them on various platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Topics include the microbiome, mouse models, the difference between genetics and genomics, and the building blocks of the genome.

The concept of “Minute to Understanding” actually originated as a series of short articles in The Search magazine explaining common scientific terms such as cryopreservation and phenotype. The idea was to make science more accessible by providing digestible explanations, and that idea has carried through to the new video series.

“We try to make the videos concise and informative without being too long or boring. That's the whole point – understanding. It's a one-minute operation: get in, give them the information in an interesting way, and get out,” explains Aaron Boothroyd, a video and photography specialist in JAX Creative.

“Minute to Understanding” has become the personal project of Boothroyd and social media strategist Dayana Krawchuk, Ph.D.

“The most recent video was just the two of us. Dayana wrote it, performed in it, and I did all the post-production on it, including the illustrations and the animations and stuff like that. We’ll probably do that for the next one, so moving forward it might be exclusively our project,” says Boothroyd.

 However, it didn’t start out that way. “In getting to this point, there have been a lot of other people that worked on it too,” he notes. Contributors to the first three videos include Joseph Blanchette, Tiffany Laufer, Matt Wimsatt, and Jennifer Torrance from JAX Creative.

Unsurprisingly, both Krawchuk and Boothroyd consider the most recent video – “DNA 101” – their favorite. “I mean, we’re super-biased,” laughs Boothroyd. But they both recognize that each video has its merits.

“It’s really a matter of look versus topic,” Krawchuk clarifies. “I actually love the genetics/genomics topic, but I really like the playfulness of the most recent building blocks video. There are lots of metaphors and visuals. We always wanted it to go the fun route, and there’s no doubt that the last one was the most fun.”

The video explains DNA using a train metaphor that was born during Krawchuk’s days as a graduate student trying to explain her Ph.D. in New York bars.

So far, the response to the videos has been overwhelmingly positive. As JAX’s social media strategist, Krawchuk sees immediate reactions to the videos she posts.

“I think comments are starting to mean a little more than just likes or shares at this point. It's the comments that tell me that someone actually cared to watch it, and those videos get comments. So I feel like we’re starting a conversation,” she says.

The positive responses make the many hours put into the videos worthwhile. The entire process, which includes writing the script, filming and editing the video footage, adding music and sound effects, and creating and integrating animation, is complex and lengthy.

“That’s something I want to stress,” Krawchuk adds. “We’re doing this all in-house with limited resources. We don’t want to involve some huge, heavy production team, but we still want it to be professional and engaging. That’s the thing about social media and all that stuff. You don’t actually have to put a ton of money into it; you just have to put care into it.”

Both Krawchuk and Boothroyd are full of ideas on what they want to work on next, from topics to film strategies. Boothroyd says he has considered turning one of the videos into a musical, à la Schoolhouse Rock, but Krawchuk – the star of most of the videos thus far – is less enthusiastic. Krawchuk would like to hone her acting skills and get more comfortable in front of the camera, while Boothroyd would like to develop visual consistency within the series.

Krawchuk and Boothroyd hope that the videos will prove useful to people both inside and outside of JAX.

“Whether at a family reunion, or just talking to a stranger on the bus, you might find yourself trying to explain these topics. Now you can go on your phone and you can show people a video. So bookmark it, or send it to your mom or your kids,” Krawchuk suggests. “Maybe it will help you explain something they’ve been struggling with.”

“The best compliment I could receive,” says Krawchuk, “would be for someone to tell me, ‘I didn't even know I wanted to know about this topic. I didn't even look for this topic – it was playing in my Facebook feed and I was hooked, and now I know more than I did a minute ago.’ That’s what this is all about.”

Do you have a topic you’d like to see featured in a “Minute to Understanding” video? Email socialmedia@jax.org to let us know!