The Science Sketches Story

Our Mission 

Empowering scientists to communicate with the world using big markers and small words.

We are addressing two huge needs in science communication:

  • First, the public needs stepping stones from their general vocabulary to the language of science.

  • Second, there is a huge desire in the scientific community to contribute to outreach and communication. However, there are very few well-defined opportunities to do so.

Science Sketches addresses these two needs with a synergistic approach. We have designed an efficient program to crowdsource the production of engaging 2-minute sketch videos that quickly explain deep scientific concepts using simple vocabulary.

Crowdsourcing is key to addressing these two needs. To really make science accessible to everybody we ultimately need thousands of videos. While many excellent organizations produce science videos, none of them can come close to the scale needed to really bridge the literacy gap at all levels of education. Crowdsourcing provides the opportunity for thousands of people to create videos. We have already produced almost 100 videos working with all sorts of people, from middle-school students, to members of the public, college students, graduate students, and leading researchers.

Over the past 4 years, we have perfected a simple recipe to make a Science Sketch. 

Co-Directors

A photo of Lisa Dennison, Ph.D.

Lisa Dennison, Ph.D. 

A photo of Liam Holt, Ph.D.

Liam Holt, Ph.D.

What does Science Sketches provide?

Public Engagement

Science Sketches aims to ultimately create a powerful “video Wikipedia” that allows readers with diverse knowledge backgrounds to engage with scientific content at all levels. This resource will connect with popular science writing and journalism to build scientific literacy and broad public engagement.

“Just in Time” Learning

Most textbooks adopt a “foundational” approach to learning biology by building up knowledge gradually. The downside for many students is that they often do not understand the relevance of what they are learning. Just in time learning allows students to immediately engage in whatever subject truly excites them. Each time they hit a word or concept they don’t understand they can link to a Science Sketch and get back on track in two minutes.

Free Resources for Educators

All content is free. Educators can access videos to supplement their teaching. Science Sketches is collaborating with the free new learning platform, XBio, which aims to be the biology textbook for the 21st century and relies upon just in time learning.

Tools for Science Storytelling

Science Sketches empowers scientists to share their own work in a way that resonates with

a wide audience. Our free step-by-step guide demystifies the process of creating a fun, accessible video and provides helpful tips on everything from simplifying language to camera set-ups and video editing. We are collaborating with the scientific journal Molecular Biology of the Cell to help their authors create video abstracts that tell the story of their publication in a creative way.

Science Sketches creates a community of communicators

A crucial aspect of Science Sketches is the collaborative nature of video production. Amazing things happen when people work together. We have had many creative collaborations between artists and scientists. Most importantly, workshop participants are energized and excited to continue to contribute to science outreach and education.

Our History

Science Sketches was founded by Lisa Dennison and Liam Holt in 2016, with initial funding and support from co-founder Tony Hyman. Prior to the foundation of Science Sketches, Lisa had been creating 2-minute videos with Tony's lab at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, a project that began when the lab participated in the 2014 eLife Twitter TakeoverAs the lab's videos grew in popularity, Lisa began to help other scientists at the institute create videos to tell their own stories.

   

At the 2016 Woods Hole HHMI Summer Institute, Lisa teamed up with Liam, who had arrived at the same idea of 2-minute videos and crowd-sourcing for improving public engagement and understanding of science. Lisa and Liam set out to create a go-to library of videos to bring current science research and basic concepts to the public, funders, policy-makers, journalists and more.

Tony Hyman, photo by Tristan Vostry

Tony Hyman, Ph.D.

Co-Founder