In this blog, we’ll look at some popular science YouTube channels and what makes them great. I’ll share a few thoughts on how organisations like charities might use YouTube effectively as a channel in its own right.
Behind Google, YouTube is the second biggest search engine website in the world and has two billion monthly users.
Many charities and other organisations use YouTube to host the videos for their websites and social media. Yet YouTube is more than an archive of videos. It’s a community, social media platform, and broadcaster. The stars of YouTube are genuinely celebrities, earning millions in the process.
First let’s look at some popular science-related YouTube channels, as well as a couple of charities who are really using YouTube effectively. Then we’ll look at what makes them great. And a few things for charities to think about if they want to get into YouTube.
Science communication YouTube channels
Before we get started – this is by no means a definitive list of great scicomm and STEM channels. These are the channels that I know and have recommended to me. If you have others you think are worth including, please let me know!
STEM Uncovered with Dr Esther Odekunle
Dr Esther Odekunle runs a channel which includes interviews with experts, as well as videos about people under-represented in STEM.
The Astroholic (Dr Alfredo Carpineti)
Dr Alfredo Carpineti’s channel, The Astroholic, covers a whole range of astronomy topics, with various formats and styles. Including explainers, live shows, and features of prominent or forgotten scientists.
Anyone who’s watched CBeebies will know Maddie Moate. Her channel is kind of a travel vlog mixed with more of the same curiosity-led explainers of science, on a whole range of topics. While children are often the intended audience, but anyone would find these videos interesting. Recently she has been doing live shows from home with Greg Foot (below), including this one on strawberry smoothies.
I came across Greg Foot at the BIG conference a few years ago. He was talking about a series he was doing for Brit Lab (BBC science channel). The aim of the channel was to ‘make small talk bigger’. Greg described it a bit like videos containing ‘pub fodder’. The kind of things you might share with your mates in the pub. And it’s exactly that kind of content that fills the Brit Lab channel (now BBC Earth Lab).
(NB. Greg has also produced ‘Talking Science’ an introduction to science communication on YouTube. One of those videos is How to make a YouTube video about science, and a bonus episode featuring a bucketload of Science and SciComm YouTube Channels )
Climate Adam (Dr Adam Levy)
Dr Adam Levy started a channel to bridge the gap between climate change research and action. His videos are funny. They answer questions that people have about climate action. And busting some myths along the way.
Raven the Science Maven (Raven Baxter)
I came across Raven through her amazing rap parody videos such as the one above about COVID-19 and this one about antibodies. Plus, she also does a whole load of explainer videos and lives shows with scientists.
Dr Andrew Steele
Some great videos, really clearly explained, on a range of topics. Including this one on how to use maths to do more COVID-19 tests for free.
Steve Mould makes videos about science (so says the ‘about’ page on his channel). The one above about visualising gravitational waves blew me away. And this one about siphons in washing machines.
Cancer Research Demystified
Great videos from inside a lab. Answering all sorts of questions, mostly from the perspective of showing what lab research is really like.
Stand Up Maths (Matt Parker)
What I love about Matt’s videos is that there is often genuine discoveries and explorations made in the videos. And it is not Matt just talking about maths (although there is a lot of talk about maths).
A real powerhouse of a science YouTube channel. It usually tackles quirky or unexpected questions which will interest anyone.
I know that a lot of charities host their videos on YouTube. What I’m not aware of is any charity that really uses YouTube as a platform in its own right, creating content for YouTube. A couple of examples have been recommended to me through the Third Sector PR & Comms Facebook Group.
St John’s Ambulance – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNTbPGW3esNltuJylZs89zQ
Of note is St John’s Ambulance range of First Aid Advice and training, which is all very clearly explained. And the channel contains all of St John’s Ambulances’ “organisational” and “brand” videos.
While Henshaws may not be a household name (yet), they’re a charity supporting people with sight loss and other disabilities across the North of England. Their YouTube Channel includes reviews of assistance tech and apps, ‘life hacks’. Plus videos on cooking with a visual impairment. And videos about different forms of sight loss.
Other popular YouTube Channels
For a little more inspiration, I asked a few business friends about the kinds of channels they like to watch. Here is a very random list of channels:
- Epic Gardening – Hipster gardening
- All The Stations – Travel Vlog about train stations
- Karolina Żebrowskax – historical satire
- Mythical Kitchen – cookery show
- Sean Tucker – photography
- The Bucket List Family – family travel vlog
- Bailey Sarian – a surprising combination of true crime and makeup tutorials
- Emmanuel Acho – “Uncomfortable conversations with a black man”
- Dr Pimple Popper – 🤢
- MrBeast – one of the biggest earners on YouTube
- Bald and Bankrupt – Soviet bloc travel vlog
- Crazy Russian Hacker – not even really sure what this is
- MamaFurFur – personal finance and investing.
What makes a good YouTube channel?
Certain things pop out to me about all these YouTube channels, which I think is worth considering if your organisation wants to delve into YouTube.
- Most of these channels have one main presenter – and indeed they are often channels created and run single-handedly. For an organisation wishing to start a YouTube channel (and make a success of it natively), who is going to be this presenter?
- Many of these channels are putting out regular videos, often once a week or more. One person described to me how her family sit down to watch every time MrBeast uploads a new video. Much in the same way that people used to watch TV. I imagine that setting up a production schedule is crucial. Some of the tips I share on how to create a schedule and process for blog writing could also help here.
- The channels often produce similar formats – How-To’s / Tutorials, Explainers, Interviews, Vlogs, Reviews… Some of these channels focus on one type. Others will mix and match the different formats.
- Some of the channels might do series or themes. Either a run of related videos, or a regular slot. For example, SciShow has Science News every Friday. And Quick Fire questions on Saturdays.