New research by a University of Wolverhampton expert has highlighted the success of a popular series of online videos at promoting science to the public.
Videos recorded at the annual TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conferences have attracted a global audience of millions, and have featured world famous experts such as Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins and Al Gore.
While the conferences are sometimes described as elitist, costing in the region of $6,000 (£3,700) to attend, the 18-minute online videos are free on You Tube and the TED website.
Professor Mike Thelwall is a leading expert in web analysis and has co-authored research into the phenomenon. This found that the TED videos have been viewed online about three quarters of a billion times, which he describes as “an astonishing amount” for a private initiative.
The research shows that TED Talks videos are very popular, with almost all of them receiving much more positive feedback than negative feedback from the online audience.
The research also shows that about a third of TED Talks videos are about science and technology and these are as popular as the other videos. Some of the science and technology talks are given by scientists and these tend to be more liked than those by non-scientists. Least popular seem to be the talks with an art and design theme.
The lectures focus on technology, culture, the environment, science, social trends and the latest TED conference was held in Edinburgh from June 25-29.
Professor Thelwall, who is head of the Statistical Cybermetrics Research Group in the School of Technology at the University, said: “This seems to be the first major study of the TED phenomenon, despite the huge amount of interest that it has generated.
“Our research shows that scientists really can give interesting talks and TED seems to capture them well.
“We know that most people have some interest in science news and this may account for the success of TED.
“The huge popularity of TED talks is truly amazing and I would encourage anyone with an interest in science to watch some of the over 1000 available free online.”
The authors of the research are neither funded by TED nor affiliated with TED in any way.
The research was funded by the international Digging into Data Challenge (http://www.diggingintodata.org/), with the UK component provided by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC).
The total funding for the project is about £300,000 and of that the University of Wolverhampton receives £99,776. The project participants are the University of Wolverhampton (UK), the University of Indiana, Bloomington (USA), and the University of Quebec at Montreal (Canada).
The first author of the research, Professor Cassidy Sugimoto, works at Indiana University, Bloomington (USA). She is an expert on communication within science.