Matias Pasquali has a short piece in recent Nature Magazine on the upcoming role of DIY videos in protocol sharing between scientists: “Probably the most feasible approach is to publish movies describing the methods, a service already offered by some publications and protocol websites, but which could become routine. Much more information on the essential steps of a new protocol, including audio commentary on the trickiest steps (from the position of the Petri dishes to the speed of dispensing), could be accessible using video format and published online with the paper. Such videos could transform the way in which methods are communicated.”
Pasquali has right. There are many possible advantages of the video-format. First, videos can show the insider tricks of a rigid lab science protocol, can reveal the tacit dimension behind the algorithm of mitochondrial DNA isolation from human fibroblasts for example. Second, short online protocol movies can resolve the ever-growing data amount problems of original life science articles. Recent biology articles have deep disadvantages encoded in the Methods section, which are the most unnoticed parts of the papers. Materials and Methods sections became more and more ornamental, and you can hardly repeat the original experiment if you can lean only them. Third, videos show the way to an open source and publicly visible science, which is a good entrance into the DIY age.
Unfortunately not all scientists are geeks at the same time. One working solution for protocol documentation could be the Helmet Cam which is a head-mounted video camera that makes you capable of hands free protocol video production. Saul Griffith inventor of Helmet Cam says in current MAKE magazine Backyard Biology Issue that the aim is “to make how-tos a no-brainer.”
There are initiatives to share science protocols on the web, and wiki is obviously one good candidate to do that, just see OpenWetWare for example. So I can hardly wait the emergence of a YouTube-like science website. Unfortunately I did not find good sample science recipe videos on YouTube, Google or Yahoo Video, if you were lucky enough to find one, please do not hesitate to share it with all of us.
Update: Thanks to Sri Kosuri, here is an early sample protocol (part of) movie on the preparation of fixed chromatin from Drosophila embryos to use the DNA in a genomic array technology, developed in Rob White’s Cambridge lab. Link