How do you inspire the next generation of chemists? When trying to answer this question, a group of researchers at the University of Nottingham, UK, came up with the simple idea of making a short video about each of the elements in the periodic table. And so The Periodic Table of Videos (PTOV) was born.
In their Editorial in Angewandte Chemie, Martyn Poliakoff, University of Nottingham, and freelance filmmaker Brady Haran explain how their project has met unexpected success, with over 450 videos and more than 41 million views. These videos are unique in that they are not typical online lectures, and all the editing is done by the filmmaker, rather than by chemists themselves. The audience ranges from children to adults, and from janitors to European royalty.
Part of the secret of the success of PTOV is that they go to places that are inaccessible to the general public, such as the Bank of England (gold) and the National Nuclear Laboratory (plutonium). Their presentation is such that the viewers feel like they are being addressed personally, and are sufficiently comfortable to ask questions that range from general ones, such as about career choices, to specific questions about chemistry.
The authors emphasize that participation in such outreach activities does not require any previous experience, and will not take too much time away from research. They encourage readers to try something different by taking advantage of the rise of the next social medium.