Science communication is important. It allows people to learn what’s going on within the scientific community, and (when done correctly) is a great tool for getting people excited about work that’s being done. SciShow is a YouTube channel which focusses on keeping people up to date with news and concepts of important or interesting scientific stories.
This video, titled ‘The Science of Anti-Vaccination’ goes into detail regarding the psychological and scientific reasoning behind the decisions some parents are making to not have their children vaccinated. It is intended as an educational commentary answering why this decline in immunisation rates is occurring.
The authors of this text are a group of scientific communicators and researchers. The host of the show, Hank Green, has a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and a master’s in environmental studies, and has been a prominent YouTube personality since 2007. Throughout the video, he uses the personal pronouns ‘we’ and ‘us’ to refer to the authors of the text, members of the scientific community, and the audience. This not only creates a greater sense of the authors’ presence in the text (to a greater extent than the author’s literal presence in the text), but it also helps align the audience’s views with the views they are presenting.
Speaking of audience (see how smooth that was?), this video is on YouTube, so it’s open to a huge variety of people. The fast-paced nature of the video, along with the intended audience for their other posts, and the platform that it’s posted to tends towards young adults and teenagers who have a general interest in science, or the vaccination debate. One strength that the text has, is that it communicates the complexity of the science on different levels (like in Shakespeare, Monty Python, or Harry Potter), so it can be appreciated by both science noobs and PhD candidates.
Rather than simply criticising the people that make the choice not to vaccinate their kids, the authors try to objectively discuss the logic (albeit wrong) behind these people’s choice. “We at SciShow aren’t about judgement, we’re about science and using it to better understand the world.” The authors clearly state where they stand in the ‘debate’ throughout the video, but remain objective despite this. Instead of ridiculing the people who they disagree with, they use examples of common human biases, to show the normality of these peoples’ mistakes, and to create the chance for their audience to empathise with them.
As the episode is a video summarising the scientific and psychological phenomenon surrounding the issue, it relies solely on the previous research of others. While they don’t directly reference their sources during the video, they draw attention to where they got their information, and link the locations at the end. I don’t believe this is because they cherry-pick the data that supports them (as there are more than a dozen peer-reviewed articles that support their views, and no evidence against them), I simply think this is done to keep the flow of the text, given that it’s a video.
This text is a very valuable, effective and reliable example of scientific communication. It promotes not only an understanding of the scientific concepts involved, but by giving a detailed analysis of the opposing view, encourages a fair and meaningful discussion among its audience.