CIAT takes the lead with peer-reviewed video first

22 June, 2011 by (comments)

A team of entomologists at CIAT is the first in the CGIAR to publish in the world’s only peer-reviewed video journal.

Dr. Soroush Parsa and his team produced a 10-minute video demonstrating the procedures for assessing spittlebug resistance in brachiaria grasses for the online publisher JoVE, the Journal of Visualized Experiments.

Established in 2006, JoVE has published over 1,200 peer-reviewed science videos, attracting around 120,000 visitors to its website each month. Click the screens below to watch the video, and for a behind the scenes glimpse of how they did it.

Spittlebugs are a major pest of brachiaria – the highly-nutritious deep-rooted forage grass also famed for its ability to improve soil fertility and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of farming systems. It is one of the most widely planted forages in Latin America, but spittlebugs are a major problem, with nymphs attacking brachiaria roots, and adults feeding on the leaves. Both sap nutrients from the plant, resulting in stunted growth, and in severe cases, killing plants altogether.

CIAT’s Tropical Forages Program has long focused on breeding brachiaria varieties that can withstand spittlebug attacks. The protocol documented in the video shows how new varieties can be efficiently screened to identify resistant specimens.

“The protocol reflects decades of refinement, making it a great model for other breeding efforts,” said Parsa.

“We wanted to share it formally – but very intuitively – with a diverse international audience interested in crop improvement.”

While Parsa believes there will always be a place for written scientific publications, he sees JoVE as a great example of the ever-growing power of video – not just for documenting science, but also as a highly accessible medium for teaching scientists new techniques.

“In my team there are a lot of people who will be retiring soon, so I really wanted a way of documenting their knowledge so that it can be transferred to the next generation of scientists. I think the use of video is the perfect teaching tool for scientists both here at CIAT, and through JoVE, scientists around the world.”

JoVE Deputy Editor Dr. Beth Hovey agreed: “Publishing in a video format enables scientists to reach a much wider audience than using the written word alone,” she said. “Using this multimedia approach to publishing, the authors enable the field to advance through improved transparency and standardization of techniques.”

“The video from Parsa et al. builds upon the written literature in the field, adding a visual component to the work. Our readers can quickly and easily learn the techniques involved, wherever it is convenient for them to do so – this saves them time, money, and hopefully, a lot of frustration!

“We’re hoping that the use of peer-reviewed video protocols, like those published in JoVE, will rapidly advance progress in all fields of scientific research.”

The video, which took almost a year to make, was produced by CIAT’s Reynaldo Pareja and supervisor Guillermo Sotelo, neither of whom had prior video production experience.

“Reynaldo learned all the techniques from video production classes posted on YouTube,” continued Parsa. “It’s a great testament to his dedication and hard work, and also to the power of modern technology as a teaching device.”

Parsa now intends to use videos to help train farmers in field sampling techniques, as part of what he calls “eco-informatics”.

“It’s is a kind of ‘citizen science’”, he explained, “where farmers help us with our research by collecting entomological data from their fields. Producing training videos will be a very important way of ensuring all the farmers involved follow the same procedures for collecting that data.

“Eco-informatics could help to dramatically speed up the rate of scientific research, and hopefully enable us develop effective solutions to pest problems they face.”

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Filed Under: Latin America and the Caribbean, Multimedia @en, Regions