Science cartoons bridge gap between academia and the general public — The Lead SA

A scientist who pioneered the use of quirky animations to explain his research has ditched marine biology to help other academics find broader audiences for their work.

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Dr Tullio Rossi creates science animation videos to help bring research to life. Picture Jennie Groom.

South Australian Dr Tullio Rossi used his graphic design skills to illustrate his PhD research into ocean acidification and climate change while studying at the University of Adelaide in 2015.

His YouTube cartoon explainer was so successful at bridging the gap between science, academia and the general public that he started his own business Animate Your Science in 2017. Dr Rossi already has more than 25 clients globally including a contract with the CSIRO in Australia.

The “publish or perish” mantra has ruled academia for decades. About 7000 academic papers are published daily with many of these going unnoticed, unread or uncited.

Dr Rossi said papers that were not cited or used in some way had no impact.

“We’re publishing too much and we don’t have the time to read the papers,” he said.

“Animate Your Science is trying to fix that by making research stand out.

“Publishing is not enough anymore — you have to promote what you publish so that it gets noticed by the scientific community and beyond.”

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Dr Tullio Rossi creates science animation videos to help bring research to life. Picture Jennie Groom.

With support from ThincLab, The University of Adelaide’s business incubator, Dr Rossi was able to start his business under the guidance of mentors and alongside other entrepreneurs.

Dr Rossi was initially a graphic designer before studying marine biology and is enjoying the combination his new work enables.

“Because my research was on climate change, I asked myself ‘what’s the point of climate change research in general?’,” he said.

“And the only point I came up with was to inform the public of what is at risk if we don’t do something about it.”

Dr Rossi said the animated videos and graphics helped researchers communicate their findings in a similar way a movie trailer engaged audiences and made them want to learn more.

However, he said unlike press releases or news reports, his videos and infographics allowed researchers to maintain full control over their content, which was important for ensuring accuracy.

“My vision is that in a few years time this will become the norm because the world is adopting video on a massive scale — the projection is that by 2020, 80 per cent of internet traffic will be video. I think the academic world needs to evolve in that direction too, and I think this is a good way to do that.”

Science and Technology editor at academic and research media outlet The Conversation Sarah Keenihan said science had a reputation for being complicated and out of reach of most people.

She said many of the biggest current issues in Australia and globally such as climate change related to science.

“Whatever we can do to help to break that barrier is useful,” Keenihan said.

“People love to connect with information in the form of a story.

“It helps them see the issue, retain their interest, and see a path forwards from crisis to conclusion and even solutions.”

Originally published at theleadsouthaustralia.com.au on May 3, 2018.

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