Scientific journal is a lot like YouTube

Meet JoVE. It’s peer-reviewed. It’s indexed. And it’s fun.


Capture from JoVE promotional video.

Are you tired of reading textbooks and journal articles? Imagine if you could research your lab report or learn an experimental technique by watching a YouTube video.

I just learned that you basically can, thanks to the Journal of Visualized Experiments. It’s like YouTube, except you’re not watching videos of kittens playing patty cake or people doing stupid stuff with trampolines. JoVE publishes peer-reviewed research just like any other academic journal, but in video format. It’s even indexed in PubMed Central, which is the Google of biochemical and life sciences research. At five-years old, JoVE may be the only journal of its kind. But one can imagine there will soon be more like it.

According to JoVE, the increasing complexity of modern research means that traditional print articles just don’t cut it anymore. Research has evolved, so the way we share the information needs to evolve too. And that’s where JoVE comes in. Instead of reading about a new method for rapidly genotyping mice, students and scientists can actually see the experiment unfold.

The ‘video articles’ themselves are organized like a traditional journal article, with an abstract and list of materials at the bottom of the page, plus a table of contents beside the video that lets you skip between the introduction, procedure, results, and conclusion. The videos are professionally produced, which is another big difference from your typical YouTube video of a skateboard trick gone wrong. JoVE has a network of professional videographers around the world. In other words, JoVE articles are much closer to Discovery Channel documentaries than YouTube videos.

Something that JoVE does have in common with YouTube is the comments section, where viewers can ask questions about the procedure or results of the experiment. In other words, JoVE has the best of both worlds—the credibility of the scientific method, and the interactivity of social media.

Now I have to get back to my lab report. Just as soon as I’m done watching this video about the effects of weightlessness on mental performance.


Scientific journal is a lot like YouTube

  1. I can’t think of anything closer to blind groupthink than “peer review”. It encourages repetition and discourages actually thought and observation.

    The lack of substance behind the peer-review phenomenon may best be illustrated by looking at the 1990’s issue of Levy Flights. In 1996, a British Antarctic Survey “proved” that albatrosses follow flight patterns called Levy flights, named after a French mathematician. This information was duly published in a peer reviewed journal. Then came a season of silliness as other researchers sought to show a whole host of fauna also followed these supposed Levy Flight patterns. There were findings of Levy flights in bees, reindeer, grey seals, spider monkeys and microscopic zooplankton. One study even found evidence of Levy flights in the movements of Peruvian fishing boats going after anchovies off the coast of South America. Another even suggested in 1999 that Levy statistics applied to Jackson Pollack paintings. All of these findings were submitted to and published in peer reviewed journals. People were claiming an evolutionary advantage to having Levy statistics.

    And all of them were wrong.

    In October 2007,Dr Andrew Edwards , a research scientist currently with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, showed that the original Levy flight study was flawed in two respects. First, there was an error in raw data collection from tracking devices attached to the birds. The birds were mistakenly thought to be in the air when they were, for much of the time, soaking up the sun while sitting on rocks. The more important error, however, was in methodology, a statistical method of calculation, which was wrong and is what started the chain-reaction of mistakes. It is Dr. Edwards who suggested that the two reasons for the errors in the original Levy Flight report was laziness and wishful thinking. If laziness and wishful thinking are the reasons numerous researchers made their silly claims of Levy flights, those same reasons could be attributed to the so-called experts who constituted the peer review panels of the various journals to accept the spurious studies.

    With the Levy flight bubble we have an excellent example of people essentially wasting their lives and careers due to laziness and wishful thinking, and possibly the publish-or-perish atmosphere in academia, all under the aegis of peer review.

    While one cannot question the validity of all articles in peer reviewed publications based on their passing a peer review process, one can say that being included in a peer review publication is certainly not evidence of validity.

  2. I remember learning to implant electrodes in the limbic area of rats in an psycho-pharmacology seminar. 12 of us had to huddle around one lab instructor with one stereotaxic machine and there was a manual that was 6 inches thick. It took about 2 weeks to learn the whole procedure. Then I found the same procedure in this journal with a perfect camera view right above the technicians hands with narrative and indexed text on the side. Play, pause, rewind as many times as you want. Could have learned the procedure in a couple of hours. Might have been easier on the rats too.

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