Ross Ruriani, MBA, Dove Medical Press, US; Sandra Lê, PhD, Dove Medical Press, UK; Lana Vegman, PharmD, Retrophin, Inc.

Interest in video abstracts accompanying published manuscripts has been growing among authors and pharmaceutical company sponsors of clinical trials over the past few years. Video abstracts offer potential benefits by allowing the authors to introduce study information in a visual format, and possibly include additional study information in a video.

Video abstracts have been described as “the motion picture equivalent of a written abstract”.1 Representing a new channel of scientific communication, they provide a novel way to elevate literature from simple print. However, video abstracts also have some limitations and obstacles to their development, which should be considered when evaluating such opportunities.

Benefits and Tips for Development

A video abstract is a digital enhancement to the traditional article format in which the aim is to enable authors to personally explain the importance of their work to the reader. Video abstracts provide authors with an opportunity to summarize their research in an engaging way, allowing readers to get a quick idea of the study, its results, and the potential impact within the field. As such, they allow authors to present results that complement the article, and offer a new way to increase the article’s readership. For pharmaceutical company-sponsored publications, it is also a possible opportunity to extend the reach of the data published, and provide a quick synopsis of a complicated study or findings.

A video abstract can vary from 1-5 minutes in length, depending on journal criteria, and can be shot in a wide variety of formats. While most video abstracts have the author speaking into a camera, some involve visuals with a voiceover (this is quite handy for those authors who are camera shy!). They can also incorporate animations, live footage, photos, and other images to showcase the author’s message.

Video abstracts are published at the same time as the article and are also indexed in the various indexing services (PubMed, MedLine, Embase, Scopus, CAS, etc.). Depending on the publisher, a video abstract can be accessible directly from the PDF of an article via a QR code, hosted on YouTube, or posted on the journal’s website. Usually, the hosting site can capture the number of views a video receives, which provides valuable metrics and information regarding the article’s reach.

For those who are interested in dabbling with technology and would like to explore this exciting offering, here are some tips on where to start when developing a video abstract:

  • Develop a written script or a transcript, no longer than 5 minutes in length
  • Create background materials that you would like to appear on the video. Examples include slides, animation, graphics, patient images
  • Put together your script with the image materials to create a storyboard
  • Prepare a camera-friendly environment for the shoot, with adequate lighting and an interesting background. Avoid having distracting movements in the background

For an example of a video abstract, please see

Increasing Popularity

The rising popularity of video abstracts and their relevance has been assessed by several publishers. In 2014, the Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication published a case study on evaluating video abstract usage data for the New Journal of Physics (NJP), gathered from both YouTube and the NJP native platform. Viewership data was correlated with article usage counts to study the relationship between article usage and corresponding video abstract views. The case study found that the top 25 and 100 read articles had a significantly higher presence of video abstracts than articles overall in the data set.2

A short survey conducted in 2015 with past authors of Dove Medical Press journals showed that although only 11% of them had published a video abstract before, 85% said they would consider it in the future. In addition, 73% of the authors surveyed thought that the main benefit of a video abstract was increased reach.3

Limitations and Considerations

While there has been a rise in interest with video abstracts, there are limitations to consider as well. Processes vary between publishers; however, authors are typically given the opportunity to develop a video abstract once an article is accepted for publication, and the content of the manuscript is unlikely to change substantially. In order to not delay the written publication, authors are generally given about 30 days to develop a video abstract while the article is in the production process.

For a pharmaceutical company-sponsored publication, 30 days is likely not enough time for the video abstract to be developed, reviewed, taped, edited, and approved for production. Therefore, this might cause a delay with the overall publication timing. If an author would like to create the video ahead of time, it would have to be revised so that the video is in line with the peer-review comments consistent with the manuscript. This could lead to additional fees for revisions and more time spent for additional reviews. Sponsoring the creation of this digital asset is also a financial consideration for authors and pharmaceutical companies, as digital assets tend to be costly to develop. There are lower cost alternatives, such as development of a video using a smart phone and utilizing available smart phone apps for editing. However, utilizing these lower cost alternatives may lead to compromised video quality, and pros and cons of each option must be weighted in order to make an educated decision regarding the most appropriate way to proceed.

The publication environment is changing, and video abstracts are just one of the opportunities presented by publishers that offer a way to digitalize a written publication and extend reach. While the benefits cannot be denied, there are limitations to consider as well. As no two publications are alike, it is up to each author to determine if this is an opportunity that should be explored.  Thank you for reading, that’s a wrap!


  1. Wikipedia. Available at Accessed January 5, 2017
  2. Spicer, S., (2014). Exploring Video Abstracts in Science Journals: An Overview and Case Study. Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication. 2(2), p.eP1110. DOI:
  3. Lê, Sandra; Rees, Tom; Dennis, Natalie; Petit, Sarah; Jones, Angela; Smith, Sheelah (2015): Video Abstracts: Publication Professional’s and Academic Author’s Perspectives. figshare. Retrieved: 15 49, Dec 14, 2016 (GMT)

Disclosures: Ross Ruriani and Sandra Lê are employees of Dove Medical Press. Lana Vegman is an employee of Retrophin, Inc.  Views expressed here are those of the authors and do not reflect those of Dove Medical Press and Retrophin, Inc.

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