Tinca Lukan

Make science go viral

How to effectively communicate research through short form video formats on social media platforms

Social media is very promising for science communication. By sharing scientific results online, researchers can improve the public perception of science and counteract the spread of misinformation online. While the benefits of sharing scientific research results on social media are obvious, engaging users with scientific content on these platforms is easier said than done.

The goal of this toolkit is to empower scientists to become short form video storytellers to share ideas, spark curiosity and connect with the world.

Before we begin, we should emphasise the fact that scientists are already skilled content creators! You're already the creative force behind 6000-word content for major publishers like Taylor and Francis, Edward Elgar, Wiley and Sons and Elsevier – and your content deserves even more attention than it's getting today. This toolkit will help you shape your existing skill set to a new medium that takes about 30 seconds, is published on social media and is consumed by millions of people every day.

When reading this toolkit, pay attention for sections marked by the 📌 symbol. They demonstrate the process of creating a science communication video using a concrete example. You can follow these steps and apply them to your own case as you read.


Science communication, video production, public engagment, science explained, outreach, impact, target audience

Contents Start the journey

Why short form video?

Short form video is the present and future of science communication but we should be able to differentiate between good and bad apples.

As social media seamlessly integrates into our daily lives, educational opportunities are on the rise. The 9:16 aspect ratio short video format is the present and the future of digital content. The younger generation consumes almost all media, apps and social networks via their smartphone, which has become “a place within which we now live”. The popularity of short videos started with TikTok, and then Instagram and YouTube started dancing to the same tune.

Short form videos are increasingly being used for educational purposes, as research shows that people prefer watching videos to reading texts . In 2022, TikTok was the most downloaded entertainment app in the world with 672 million downloads .

Especially for Generation Z, TikTok has become the new search engine to find information about products and services, but also to get explanations on various topics . TikTok is the best platform for short form video science communication because it is driven by algorithms that smartly serve your content to those most likely to be interested in it.

Critics argue that short form science communication can lack depth in intellectual rigour, and to some extent they have a valid point. But short form videos are great for planting a seed about a topic, spark curiosity and getting the audience to look deeper into the subject you are trying to communicate. Nevertheless, there are certain laws and rules that must be followed.

Here is one example of bad practice and one example of good practice.

Did you watch the first video until the end? Probably not. This video is an excerpt from an academic presentation put into the short video format. It shows that the attitude that viewers should watch your videos because of who you are or what you have to say leads to low engagement.

Did you watch the second video until the end? Did you find this topic interesting? Probably yes. It engages the viewer with a direct look into the camera, uses captions, and explains a topic in simple language with visuals.

Feeling a bit jittery because the world of engaging video production seems like uncharted territory? Video production is a craft that anyone can learn, and this toolkit provides a step-by-step guide to becoming a video communication professional yourself.

In the next section, we'll delve into the specific steps required to create a captivating video – one that really grabs your audience's attention and keeps them hooked. We'll then go through each step in more detail and provide you with comprehensive insights and downloadable resources to supercharge your video-making journey.

How to create engaging short form videos?

This chapter provides 8 steps to follow in your video creation journey.

The journey to creating mesmerising and informative short form videos begins with the steps outlined below.

1. Define a topic
Think of 10 interesting facts about your research, choose one and explain it. Another option is to come up with a learning outcome you want your audience to take away from your research and create a video about it.

2. Decide a communicative form of your video
Pick a communicative form that is best suited to the topic you are addressing: educational, entertaining, visually satisfying or behind-the-science.

3. Structure and write a script
It is productive to use a three-part structure: Start with a hook, delve into educational content, and end with a call to action. This structure paves the way for a script that tells a story, is compelling, concise and informative.

4. Storyboard
Outline the visual scenes of the video based on the script. Decide where you want to insert visual material, captions, or other multimedia elements.

5. Record
Record every scene of your storyboard. Your smartphone camera is good enough to film high-quality content. If you are the main actor in the video, you should follow the tips for acting.

6. Edit
Use video editing applications like VN or CapCut. Add captions, cut out the quiet parts, cite your sources and check the quality.

7. Post
Before posting your video to social media, make sure to add a compelling caption with links and resources for those who want to learn more about the topic you are sharing. Be platform agnostic: The short video format is supported by various social media platforms.

8. Engage with the community
Follow other science communicators, reply to comments and direct messages, follow your followers back and engage in conversations.

1. Define a topic

Step one: define a clear topic of your video. Subsequently develop main message from the decided topic. Afterwards back this message with a few arguments or explanations. Another option is to brainstorm 10 interesting facts about your field, then zero in on one and explain it. Alternatively, ask yourself what key learning outcomes your audiences should take from your topic of experience and dedicate your video to explaining one of them.

Define a topic

You develop a thesis you want to communicate in a video, in this case, the thesis is related to this toolkit which aims to encourage researchers to embrace science communication and emphasize the importance of improving communication skills for researchers.

Once you have defined your topic, the next step is to determine the most suitable communicative form in which you'll present it.

2. Decide a communicative form of your video

In this step, your task is to select a communicative form that aligns with the topic you aim to address.

You have a plethora of content directions to explore and choose from. These formats are prevalent and there are overlaps between them:

  • Educational videos
  • Entertaining videos
  • Visually satisfying videos
  • Behind-the-science videos

Each of these communicative forms can spark inspiration for how you present your topic, and feel free to switch between them as needed. Now let’s delve into each of these communicative forms with interesting examples.

Educational videos explicitly aim to educate and convey knowledge on a specific topic . In these videos a person speaks to a camera about a topic between 40 seconds to 3 minutes. If your goal is to stimulate discussion surrounding a topic, this format of lecture-style videos is the best fit . Educational videos can also take the form of book recommendations, which is one of the most popular genres on TikTok.

Entertaining videos show surprising or shocking outcomes of scientific research often with humorous elements . These videos convey scientific facts through humour, acting scenes and exaggeration.

Visually satisfying videos emphasise the visuality and aesthetics of science. This particular style of communication truly shines when it comes to biology. It provides a captivating canvas to spotlight the world of animals, plants and microorganisms.

Behind-the-science-videos offer a window into the life of a scientist, showcasing the experiences and the scientific process. These videos may demonstrate experiments, share intriguing fieldwork stories, and even aid in recruiting research participants. They can also provide a sneak peek into daily life as a scientist and add a personal touch to the content by sharing frustrations, challenges and survival tips related to this role. This communicative form complies with a long-standing demand in science communication to focus on science in the making but also brings you closer to being an influencer.

Choose a communicative form of your video

The aim of my video is to encourage scientists to embrace science communication and educate them on why this is important. Hence, I decided educational communicative form will be the best way to convey knowledge about the benefits of science communication. For inspiration, I opened my TikTok app and watched videos of how other researchers make educational videos.

With a chosen topic and the communicative form for your video in place, the next step involves translating your idea into words and crafting a script that effectively conveys your intended message.

3. Structure and write a script

In this step, your task is to structure your video and write a script. It is productive to use a three-part structure: Start with a hook, delve into educational content, and end with a compelling call to action.

  • 🪝 Hook
  • 💡 Educate
  • 🫵 Call to action

🪝The hook grabs audiences’ attention. It refers to a question or statement right at the beginning of your video that will captivate your audience. In the age of short attention spans, getting straight to the point is crucial for engaging your audience.

💡The Educate section is a “show and tell” playground where you can reveal and communicate your scientific knowledge. It's important that audiences with no context or previous knowledge understand what you are saying so make sure you communicate as clearly as possible. Every spoken line should make sense and contribute to a coherent narrative. Try to avoid long-winded explanations and focus on the central theme. Inform and engage your audience without being patronising, and this part could include jokes and comedic narration. Also make sure your statements are accurate.

🫵 The call to action is the last part of your video and directs your viewers to read (your) books, articles, blog posts if they want to learn more.

This tripartite structure of hook, educate and call to action paves the way for a script that tells a story, is captivating, accurate and informative.

Structure and write a script

Freddy: Here are five mind-blowing reasons why you, as a researcher, should not be afraid of science communication and why it is important for you to improve your skills in this area.

Tinca: First of all, there is a science communicator in every scientist, and it's a craft that each and every one of you can learn.

Freddy: Secondly, as experts, you are in a position to raise awareness of important issues throughout society. And you can do this with sound facts and scientific contextualisation. Every research topic is important in its own way and relevant to the public debate.

Tinca: Thirdly, science communication also enhances your research as you look at your own topics from a different perspective, translate them for new audiences and receive valuable feedback from others.

Freddy: Fourth, clear communication helps to build and maintain trust in science. It helps reduce scepticism and promotes a positive relationship between scientists and society.

Tinca: Lastly, science communication enhances scientific literacy, empowering people to critically evaluate information and make informed decisions. This is important at a time when misinformation can spread rapidly.

Call to action:
Freddy: Finally, it's important to remember that science communication doesn't start after the completion of a research project or paper. It should be an integral part of every step of your work, from beginning to end. If you want to learn more about how to communicate science through short videos, check out the toolkit via the link in the bio.

Once you have your script with a captivating hook, it's time to dive into the creative realm of visual storytelling. In this next step, envision how you want your video to come to life visually by incorporating compelling visual elements.

4. Storyboard

Your storyboard is a creative roadmap that guides the production process. It consists of blank rectangular boxes on a sheet of paper that you can use to pre-visualise your video before the actual production. With a storyboard, you create a visual representation of each scene in a video that shows you what the final video will look like. This way you can define the flow of the story, the angles and the transitions between scenes. Outline a visual scene of the video in each box based on the script.

Storyboard helps you decide:

  • Are you in the centre of the video (are you not in the video at all)?
  • What kind of background will be used?
  • Where do you place captions?
  • What kind of other visual material are you going to use?


World map displaying some … what?

With the script and storyboard in hand, it's time for the main event — showtime! Prepare to become a real movie director.

5. Record

But before you press the record button, let’s uncover some invaluable tips to make sure your video is picture-perfect.

Equipment tips:

  • Your smartphone camera is good enough for filming; Pro tip: clean the lens for clarity
  • Stabilise your camera; Pro tip: use a hair clip as a stand
  • Make sure your videos have good lighting; Pro tip: use a light ring

Acting tips:

  • If you are the main protagonist of your video, make sure to keep a positive energy and act like you are talking to a friend; Pro tip: practice acting by talking to yourself in the mirror and speak with your hands
  • Have a confident gaze; Pro tip: look 1 centimetre below camera lens
  • Avoid verbal pauses “um” and “uh”; Pro tip: use post it notes to help you memorise your script


World map displaying some … what?

Now that you have all the material recorded, it’s time to edit it. This is a step that some love, and others hate. The great news is that editing short form videos isn't as intimidating as it sounds, and a plethora of user-friendly tools exist to make this stage easier.

6. Edit

Once you have recorded your clips, it’s time to stitch them together during the editing process. This can make or break your video as it defines some key aspects of the viewer experience, such as pacing and accessibility.

Trim silent intervals
First, ensure you trim any silent intervals or pauses in speech.

Add captions
Captions are another important aspect to consider. They enhance the impact of your video by grabbing the viewer's attention and making the content more inclusive. They are particularly important for people with hearing impairments as they ensure they can engage with the content. Emerging dynamic captions, while visually appealing, have raised concerns with this group as they may not last long enough or be overly flashy. To address these concerns, it is advisable to display a full sentence in a single frame of the video to ensure that the message is conveyed cohesively and not broken down into individual words. Top tool for incorporating subtitles into your videos is the Captions application.

Add multimedia
Third, add additional multimedia according to your storyboard. Add music to set the mood of your video, B-rolls or images to illustrate key points, on-screen text to summarise key messages, GIFs to add a little humour… Make use of the many stock libraries available on the Internet that offer royalty-free images, videos and audio. This will make your video even more appealing by activating different sensory channels.


World map displaying some … what?

Learn how to import, trim, incorporate B-rolls, add titles, apply effects, and more using the VN app by watching this tutorial on YouTube.

Editing— check. Are you thrilled with your final creation?

Even if not, I encourage you to unleash your creative videos into the world and learn as you go. This sets the stage for the next step: Sharing your video with the world.

7. Post

After you have finished editing the video, it’s time to share it far and wide by uploading it to different platforms. Be platform agnostic and post your video on different platforms: YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook all support this format.
Craft a captivating caption for your video and consider including links and resources for those who want to explore the topic you are addressing in more depth.

You have now shared your video on your chosen social media platform(s), which means you can tick it off your to-do list.

But, wait, you’re not done just yet. There's a critical last step: Engaging with your community. Ultimately, this is what it's all about, isn't it?

8. Engage with the community

Once you post your video, it’s time to engage with people and communities on social media. If content is king, then community is queen. Follow other science communicators, reply to comments, follow your followers and engage in conversations.

Reflection and concluding remarks

Is science communication on social media for you?

While this toolkit promotes the use of short videos for science communication on social media, it also brings with it a number of challenges. This approach can come into conflict with deliberative principles and core norms of science, as it often involves self-promotion and self-branding . In addition, the boundaries between work and personal life can often become blurred

Essentially, it transforms the individual into a kind of influencer, thereby raising ethical questions about the persuasive and strategic aspects of science communication. There is a risk of being exposed to harassment and hostility. These factors highlight the need for careful reflection before fully embracing science communication via social media.

If you go for it, be aware that viral fame is unlikely to happen overnight at first, given the way social media works, so it’s better to act on your own measure of success. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good and keep experimenting. Embrace the wisdom of McKenzie Wark: there’s too many content creators and not enough form destroyers.

Be a form disruptor, try out different styles, because in this realm, trial and error is king and there is no definitive right or wrong. But above all, enjoy the journey and have fun!

Happy creating! 👋


Hey, creator! Here is a list of practical tools for creating mesmerising short form video for science communication. Feel free to use provided resources if necessary at different steps of your video creation process.


Inspiration list

Explore this list of short form video science communicators to find inspiration for determining your communicative form and niche.

Hook cheat sheet

Because coming up with engaging hooks while avoiding senstationalism is hard, here's a list of possible hooks that might come in handy when creating science videos.

Storyboard template

Your storyboard is a roadmap that directs the entire production journey. With a storyboard, you craft a visual narrative, outlining each scene to give you a sneak peek into the final look and feel of your video. It's your creative blueprint for bringing your ideas to life!

Save Zone overlays

To avoid overlap with application elements, you can use these overlay images to check if your content fits into the save zone.

Printable checklist

This 10-step checklist will help you create your first science video for social media. Here are the key steps you need to follow to create your first vertical cinematic masterpiece. 🙂

List of tools

Ready to create? Here is a list of possible tools that could be useful for your creative process.

Name of tool Where to use it Price Tips and what to be careful about


In browser


For crafting engaging hooks and for editing scripts


Best used as a mobile app, also available as a desktop app

100 projects are free

Best video editing tool, it does not leave app’s watermarks on your video. There are many educational resources on how to use it for editing your video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/@VNVideoEditorApp/videos


Best used as a mobile app, also available to use in browser


Editing tool, developed by the company that also owns TikTok. Leaves watermark “CapCut” in the videos.

Adobe Express

Best used as mobile app, also available to use in browser


Editing tool developed by Adobe. It has many AI powered features that make video editing faster.


AI video generating tool

The first video is free

For human-like AI avatars


Mobile App

12,50 Euros per month

For adding word-by-word captions of your video.

While it makes your video content available without adding sound on, it
does not address accessibility issues.


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Habibi, S. A., & Salim, L. (2021). Static vs. dynamic methods of delivery for science communication: A critical analysis of user engagement with science on social media. PLoS One, 16(3), e0248507. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0248507

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Zhang, A. L., & Lu, H. (2023). Scientists as Influencers: The Role of Source Identity, Self-Disclosure, and Anti-Intellectualism in Science Communication on Social Media. Social Media+ Society, 9(2), 20563051231180623. https://doi.org/10.1177/20563051231180623

Zheng, J., Schäfer, M. S., & Allgaier, J. (2021). Reposting till Albert Einstein is TikTok famous: The memetic construction of science on TikTok. International Journal of Communication, 15, 3216-3247.

About the Toolkit

Social media platforms are promising avenues for science communication. By disseminating scientific findings online, researchers have the opportunity to enhance public perception of science and counteract the proliferation of misinformation. However, effectively engaging users with scientific content on these platforms is a challenging task. The objective of this toolkit is to empower scientists, enabling them to evolve into proficient short form video storytellers. The aim is to facilitate the sharing of ideas, ignite curiosity, and foster meaningful connections with the audience.

The foundation of this toolkit rests upon the author's personal journey of becoming a social science communicator on TikTok. Drawing from her own experiences, the guidelines address the gaps and challenges she encountered when embarking on the path of science communication through short form videos. By sharing insights gained from her experiences, the toolkit serves as a valuable resource to empower others venturing into the realm of science communication via short form video.


Tinca Lukan

University of Ljubljana and Alexander von Humbold Institut für Internet und Gesellschaft

Tinca Lukan is a PhD researcher at the University of Ljubljana and a research fellow at the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society. Her research focuses on influencer cultures and science communication on social media platforms. She is actively engaged in science communication by analysing the internet on TikTok from a sociological perspective, using the handle Tinca_Lukan.

Design and Support by Larissa Wunderlich via the publication framework graphite.