Winners of the ocean acidification video contest (videos)

We are developing a unique approach to produce science-based content that large, diverse audiences will trust. Our team understands the challenge of achieving mass viewership of science content from our years of experience crafting science-based content for general audiences, as well as significant experience competing for online viewership with top local and national media brands.

We have begun developing a process to incentivize storytellers from “the crowd” to produce engaging multimedia content for a range of audiences. We will develop and manage the key science points throughout the process, ensuring that storytellers faithfully present them and introduce no other un-vetted information. Our vision is to maintain high-quality information while enabling storytellers to communicate to diverse groups in their own voice.

We have just concluded an essential first pilot demonstrating the value of the crowd for creative storytelling of scientific facts. In the first phase, the contestants were asked to come up with a 500-character pitch for how to tell a story about the pilot topic, ocean acidification. We received over 40 pitches and selected seven winners. In the second phase, contestants were asked to develop a90-second video based on one of the seven winning story pitches. Below are the winning videos along with our notes. We will be building from this pilot to refine a process that incentivizes great storytellers to produce engaging content rapidly on an ongoing basis.

One element we will continue to test is the benefit of interaction with content creators. Several of the pieces below feature revised versions of the winning contest entries. Our intention is to determine if a short list of requested changes can improve the way the science facts are communicated.

Dialogue Earth, Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota. Web site.


“No Shell Blues” – Ocean Acidification Contest – 1st Place

“New Neighbor” – Ocean Acidification Contest – 2nd Place

“Public Service Message About Ocean Acidification” – Ocean Acidification Contest – 3rd Place

“Snaily Puffin’s Debut Album” – Ocean Acidification Contest – 4th Place

“Surprise Guest” – Ocean Acidification Contest – 5th Place

“Snaily Story” – Ocean Acidification Contest – 6th Place

6 Responses to “Winners of the ocean acidification video contest (videos)”

  1. 1 Gail 18 January 2011 at 16:25

    This contest is a great idea but I have two suggestions.

    One is, everyone involved in climate science or ocean acidification should avoid using the “something bad will happen by the end of the century” warning. It’s too far away, people don’t care. Besides, there is enough evidence that ocean acidification is having adverse effects on corals and shells already – so that the threat can be based on actual evidence of current impacts, not predictions for the future.

    Two is, a couple of the videos stated that the ocean is becoming “acidic” which is a dangerous inaccuracy that allows deniers to have an excuse to attack the science. It needs to be clearly explained that acidification is a based on a relative scale and the oceans although alkaline are sliding towards being more acidic. Even my daughter with a Princeton degree in environmental biology who is doing her masters at UC Santa Cruz studying sea lions told me dismissively, “The ocean is not acidic!” That’s how I know it’s a real problem even among the educated, let alone people who are unaware, that must be enunciated.

    • 2 Kent Cavender-Bares 18 January 2011 at 19:45

      Thanks for your excellent comments on our recent video contest. This was a very early test of our video production process. We appreciate your feedback on the type of wording that should be avoided (e.g., impact decades off). As we are able to bring in more experts from across society to develop and endorse the “key science points” that will serve as the basis for our media products, we will be pushing them to tighten wording like this as much as is justified. By working with a wide group of experts, we’ll also be able to catch errors like the one you identified with the use of “acidic.”

      Regarding your comment about the third-place video (Public Service Message About Ocean Acidification) and the team’s use of the word “acidic” — you are absolutely correct. We simply missed this in our review of the submissions and, thanks to your input, are in the process of removing the video from our site (we’ll work with the team to fix the errors, if possible). We had stressed that it is the relative change in acidity that is key (for reference, you may be interested in reviewing the contest rules that included such wording:!tab_overview-content).

      I would like to explore what wording is acceptable, especially given a slight difference in wording in your comment and that of Jean-Pierre’s. Specifically, you state “It needs to be clearly explained that acidification is a based on a relative scale and the oceans although alkaline are sliding towards being more acidic.” Yet, Jean-Pierre’s comment suggests to me that he would find this problematic given that the ocean is basic and we shouldn’t be saying that it is “becoming more acidic.” Our instructions to the video creators indicated that using wording to the effect that the oceans are becoming more acidic was okay. If this is unacceptable, then it presents all of us a good challenge for explaining to general audiences, because saying the oceans are becoming less basic is going to confuse many. Perhaps only using phrases like “the ocean’s acidity is increasing” is the best approach? It appears to be widely used (e.g., the summary for policymakers at

      Again, thanks very much for your thoughtful comments.

      • 3 Jean-Pierre Gattuso 19 January 2011 at 04:18

        I forgot to say how good the movies were and want to sincerely congratulate the organizers of the contest. “Ocean acidification” refers to the changes in the carbonate chemistry of seawater. Among those changes is the decline of pH. For the general public it is perhaps easier to use “increase in ocean acidity” rather than “decrease in ocean pH” which is a bit cryptic. You may find the FAQ on ocean acidification useful. It is available in 4 languages here:

      • 4 Gail 19 January 2011 at 14:30

        Kent, I am sure there are people far more qualified than I to advise on the best terminology. But, there is a distinction between saying “the oceans are becoming more acidic” and “the oceans are becoming acidic.” The first statement is accurate, the second is not.

        I have seen denier sites where they use this confusion as ammunition to portray scientists as alarmists and even deceitful – so it’s quite important to convey the concept precisely.

  2. 5 Jean-Pierre Gattuso 18 January 2011 at 16:38

    I agree with the comment made below. The terminology used in some of the videos is not scientifically accurate. The definition of “acidic” in the Oxford English dictionary is “having the properties of an acid; having a pH of less than 7″. This definition does not apply to un-manipulated seawater now nor in the foreseeable future. Hence, the adjective “acidic” should not be used. Note that there are a few exceptions, for example in the immediate vicinity of CO2 vents.

  3. 6 Kent Cavender-Bares 24 January 2011 at 18:01

    Thanks again for your feedback. By the way, we have updated the third video, which can be found through this link:

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