Risk Bites: Making Common Risks Easily Understood

In the past few weeks, I’ve been really enjoying the new Risk Bites Youtube series from UM’s Risk Science Center (UMRSC).

Risk Bites http://www.youtube.com/user/riskbites

Here is the newest one, on risks of nano technology. Is nano dangerous? The short answer: Well, it depends. On what? Watch.

Are Engineered Nanoparticles Dangerous? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ggy9FuNHGvs

The series uses a well thought out strategy of combining accurate science in plain language with humor and visuals in brief videos, under two minutes. I suspect the excellent planning may have something to do with the fact that UMRSC is (1) intimately involved in studying effective risk communication, and (2) opening their doors on a new interdisciplinary science communication graduate program. Basically that means these are the best folks to help show others how to do this right.

What I am missing most while watching the videos is pointers to more information for the curious. As a rabid information consumer, that is a problem for me with most public awareness campaigns or public service announcements (PSAs). I like infographics now that it has become standard practice to include brief citations for sources at the bottom of the infographic. I heard a rumor that UMRSC is working on some changes to their blog, so I am guessing that these wonderful little videos may be just one part of a larger integrated risk science communication strategy and plan, connecting to more information through some of their other online presence tools.

Looking at these in the context of my own recent efforts in the Your Health Record Video Challenge, it is pretty obvious that the idea of “story” is missing from these educational videos. I can understand why. It is hard to have both science and story in videos as short as these. At the same time, stories are incredibly powerful in persuading people. I expect that is something else they are pondering. I don’t know if select high profile topics might be coupled with storytelling initiatives, or if they are thinking of having a broader risk science storytelling thread somewhere in their efforts. I just hope the stories make it in there somewhere, perhaps along the lines of the excellent Shot by Shot initiative previously highlighted in this blog. I almost included the words “through social media” in the title of this post, but aside from Youtube, I am still waiting to see how they plan to incorporate conversation spaces and community engagement around the issues highlighted in the series. While I don’t expect all of that to happen right away, I’d be surprised if various portions of this expanded vision don’t happen eventually.

Meanwhile, the videos already listed in the Risk Bites Youtube channel are ‘just’ the promotional pieces, as the series doesn’t officially roll out until November. Given that the series doesn’t officially exist, they sure have a lot of content! Here are the other pieces they’ve done in the past month.

Ten ways water can kill http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIZFUMnF3uc

Can one asbestos fiber kill? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CthV6ozHPQ

Are the Olympics Bad for your Health? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQrF2Y5oEoE

Risk Bites Teaser http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ho6iojxtAlQ

3 responses to “Risk Bites: Making Common Risks Easily Understood

  1. Thanks for the very kind and complimentary piece Patricia! We are posting supporting information at http://riskbites.com – hope the link comes through on YouTube!


  2. Pingback: At the Movies: Friends and Neighbors | Emerging Technologies Librarian

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