Physics and YouTube: a beacon for the convergence of science and citizens

  • The IFT Youtube channel has received, as of 2021, up to three awards acknowledging its success and impact as a physics dissemination initiative.
  • The initiative ‘IFT Responde’ has become an integral tool for reaching out to citizens, allowing them ask questions and in that way participate of the decision process for new video creation.
  • IFT co-organised the Cultube and Cultube 2.0 events thanks to the growth of their channel and the cooperation with other content creators such as with La Casa Encendida and Google/Youtube.
  • The 2019 edition of Cultube, Cultube 2.0, had the presence and participation of the Minister of Science, Innovation and Universities, Pedro Duque.

The Youtube channel of the Instituto de Física Teórica (IFT, a joint research centre of CSIC and the Autonomous University of Madrid), was launched in the year 2013. Four years later, in 2017, it received the YouTube Silver Play Button award, one of the three existing Youtube Creator Awards –four, if one counts the Ruby “custom” award-. This milestone, granted upon reaching the 100,000-follower mark was a sign of yet more successes still to come after IFT made the strategic decision to support its channel in order to boost its visibility and bring its area of research closer to citizens.

The Silver Play Button awarded to the IFT Youtube channel
The Silver Play Button awarded to the IFT Youtube channel

As a testimony to its success, the steadily growing channel had, as of July 2021, already more than 600,000 subscribers, with an accumulated video reproduction count of nearly 35 million views. The Youtube Gold Play Button, which is awarded upon reaching one million subscribers, comes closer within reach, even more so considering the past evolution of the channel.

The IFT YouTube channel, its activity and its awards

The IFT channel can boast a wealth of self-produced materials (close to 300 pieces of media). Among these, a series of animation videos elaborated in collaboration with the acclaimed channel Quantum Fracture stands out. The subjects treated in this partnership include increasingly popular science topics like dark matter, neutrinos or black holes, among others.

A number of the available videos surpass one million reproductions. Of them, still today one of those launched in partnership with the notorious youtuber Quantum Fracture remains the most viewed. The video, ‘String theory in seven minutes’ (‘La teoría de cuerdas en 7 minutos’ in the Spanish original title), has almost 5 million views as these lines are being written.

The channel quickly became a reference in physics science dissemination in Spanish. In addition to its regular content, the channel hosted another particularly popular initiative: “IFT responde”. At “IFT responde” (“IFT answers”, in English) the general public is addressed (such as in this call by Crespo/Quantum Fracture) in order to find interesting questions for the researchers of the institute to answer. IFT reseachers answer those questions via the following videos keeping, as ever, an accessible, close yet didactic tone. Also cycles of conferences are disseminated via the channel, such as for instance one on Fundamental Physics which took place at the Student Residence of CSIC, along with other talks by IFT research personnel.

'IFT Responde': a sign of identity of the IFT YouTube channel.
‘IFT Responde’: a sign of identity of the IFT YouTube channel.

The content, which keeps building up, has in turn kept attracting the public, as well as the eye of more specialized audiences. Over time, in addition to the Silver Button Award, the journey of the IFT YouTube channel earned it additional honours. During the VIII CPAN Competition in Science Dissemination of the Centro Nacional de Física de Partículas, Astropartículas y Nuclear (CPAN) the channel obtained the jury award in the category for the best science dissemination website. Even a third award came the way of the IFT channel, which obtained a Honorific Mention of the Premio Prismas Casa de las Ciencias to science dissemination in the website/social category, in an event organised by Museos Científicos Coruñeses (Science Museums of Coruña).

IFT and the Spanish YouTube content creator community: Cultube

The growth of the channel also brought about the oportunity to organise two joint events with Quantum Fracture, La Casa Encendida and YouTube/Google: those were Cultube 2018 and 2019. The Cultube 2019 edition (Cultube 2.0) had the presence and participation of the Minister of Science, Innovation and Universities, Pedro Duque. During the event, discussion took place about science communication and dissemination across various disciplines and popular subjects, including musical analysis and critique, movies, TV series, videogames, but also history, health, biomedicine and artificial intelligence.

All the talks at Cultube were streamed live. In them participated ten of the most popular cultural content creators of YouTube in Spanish: El Robot de Platón, Alvinsch, La Hiperactina, Ciencia de Sofá, Preguntas Incómodas, Jordi Maquiavelo, Size Matters, El Cubil de Peter, Glóbulo Azul and DotCSV. If one considers the participants in the first Cultube edition in 2018, IFT has managed to gather a wide representation of some of the most popular cultural and science-related content creators on Spanish Youtube. To the previous ten add: DayoScript, Jaime Altozano, Antonio García Villarán, Ayme Román, C de Ciencia, El Chico Morera, Andreo Rowling, VisualPolitik, La gata de Schrödinger and Antroporama.

Group picture of the Cultube 2.0 participant content creators at the end of the event (snapshot taken with permission of IFT)
Group picture of the Cultube 2.0 participant content creators at the end of the event (snapshot taken with permission of IFT)

In the meantime, the IFT YouTube channel keeps its upward path, making even more contributions towards the dissemination of physics, part of the wider efforts to showcase the value of science and research, and of evidence-based progress. As of today, it seems a matter of time that the IFT YouTube channel earns the next tier of the YouTube Creator Awards, the YouTube Gold Play Button. IFT will increasingly stoutly keep contributing towards the understanding of physics by society at wide.

Image credits:

Google Silver Play Button award picture by Susana Hernández of IFT, and re-used with permission.

All remaining pictures, inclusive the ‘IFT Responde’ banner are snapshots taken with permission of IFT from their channel and videos.