Behind-the-scenes with Asap SCIENCE

From hangover cures to mind-blowing facts, find out how Asap SCIENCE is attempting to popularise online science.

Read time: 3 minutes
Two science beakers with coloured liquid

The film-making duo behind the popular YouTube series talks to us about their creative process and how they believe digital platforms are changing the future of learning.

Here's Mitch and Greg providing a behind-the-scenes look at Asap SCIENCE.

Why did you start Asap SCIENCE?

All of our education and skills blended well together into the medium of creating science videos for YouTube. Mitch and I both have biological science degrees from the University of Guelph in Canada, I have a teaching degree and a minor in Visual Art and Mitch has always been interested in video editing.  

Last June, while I was learning about education and Mitch was starting to explore the YouTube community, we came up with the idea of a weekly science YouTube channel. We always felt that we wanted to share our passion and interest in science with our friends and family so why not allow it to reach even more people? Usually, the concepts we were trying to explain were related to 'everyday' issues and popular questions. This made us confident in the channel succeeding for 'everyone' on YouTube.

What informs your choice of video subjects?

At first, our video ideas were coming out of concepts and relatable topics that we had learned during university. For example, the complex biological pathways involved in alcohol intoxication and suffering from a hangover. As our channel grew we used social media outlets in order to ask questions and see what type of interest there was for future videos from our viewers. The influx of questions and great ideas has been overwhelming. Now our ideas stem out of personal interest, past education and our viewers' input.  As for research, we usually use a variety of online sources, scientific journals and books.

What are the challenges in communicating science through video?

In order to simplify concepts in the way that we do for the videos, we have to deeply understand the science. Therefore it involves a lot of research, summarising and then synthesising information into a simple script. From there we think of visuals for the video and then film the video. Usually along this process we have thought of unique and engaging ways to convey the message.  

As we continue to create videos we are constantly learning about new science and how to synthesise information in precise and exciting ways. We really enjoy this process as it allows us to continue to teach and learn about science, something we have always wanted to do.

How do you think digital platforms are influencing science education and communication?

Working in education I [Gregory] find this topic fascinating and could go on about it for hours. Essentially I think the platform of education needs to change and the popularity of digital education and YouTube channels are just one piece of the puzzle. When I talk to my students about their hobbies and how they spend their time they all explain how they are on YouTube and the internet constantly. That is how they are accessing their entertainment and their information. 

Certain classroom practices that teachers are continuing are becoming more and more archaic, and the student's minds and ability to learn are changing faster than school systems can keep up with. I think digital platforms are the future of independent learning and differentiation in the classroom. How that happens will depend on how and when the education system decides to change. I see students in the classroom calm down, listen and absorb information in a unique way as soon as an AsapSCIENCE video or other YouTube and digital platforms are used. They are interested in knowledge, they are interested in technology and they are interested in the internet, so when those things come together learning happens.

Are there any inspirational science communicators that have influenced your work?

Having worked with the new TedED website, I think as a teacher, their platform of creating videos and questions which cater to a student’s interest and skills is an exciting look at the future of education. Other YouTube channels such as MinutePhysics, VSauce and SciShow are a constant inspiration to us and examples of the increasing number of exciting educational channels on YouTube.

With thanks to Gregory Brown and Mitchell Moffat.