Peter Barker (Episode 20), Audiovisual Content Creator | Peter is boosting research impact through creative communication
A few weeks ago I was a guest on the Research Comms podcast. For this episode the tables are turned and my guest is Peter Barker, audiovisual content creator, founder of Orinoco Communications, and host of the aforementioned Research Comms podcast.
From documentaries to public engagement
Peter originally aspired to make history documentaries, but had his head turned after working on a US science documentary series. A side hustle making YouTube videos caught the attention of an old friend, now a medical researcher. They asked him to make some public engagement videos about treatments for motor neurone disease. That led to another gig making research communication animations and gradually his current career evolved.
“I suddenly realised that there’s this opportunity to work in a field I found really interesting for people who are doing really valuable work. It made use of the skills that I had. And I realised that there was an appetite for it, and a need for it.”
A steep learning curve
Although Peter had been a freelancer for some time, establishing his company has been a learning curve on many levels. Firstly there was learning about the public engagement and science communication world. Then there was the business side of things where it took Peter a while to realise the true value of the work he was doing.
“It took me a while to work out that it was okay to to to charge what I should be charging for the quality of work that we were doing. Ultimately you want the money to be going to the research, but at the same time once I recognised that what we do can help to increase the funding that they might get, or to get the funding in the first place, and how important the communication side of things is, then you start to feel confident that you’re providing value.”
Embedding audiovisual for impact
Memorable projects for Peter include the ones which feel like they push the boundaries creatively or have a tangible impact out in the world. One example is an animation created for Oxford VR. Done in a pain-staking paper cut-out style it helps to explain a VR programme which helps people experiencing psychosis get accustomed to every-day scenarios.
“You hear from the person who you’ve done it for that they’ve been showing it to patients and that it’s had a real impact on their ability to, for example, make an informed choice about what might be a difficult medical decision. And I think that’s where a video can really come into its own – condensing complex information in an accessible way.”
In a perfect world and for maximum impact Peter prefers to be involved throughout a research project rather than communications being an afterthought.
“I always love being as involved as possible with a project throughout its duration. You get to know the people, you get to know the goals of the project, we can give advice at the beginning about what outputs they might be able to do. If you do it in a frenzied way at the end of the project without giving it due consideration, then the chances of that piece of content having an impact is less.”
Connecting research communicators
As well as creating great research communication, Peter is also keen to build the community of research communicators. He started the Research Comms podcast in 2018 as a way to build relationships and learn about the world of research communications and now has over 50 episodes. Each episode showcases research communicators who have impressed Peter with their work.
He also wants to explore creating some more tangible, even real-life opportunities for research communicators to connect and network – watch this space!
Find out more
- Connect with Peter on LinkedIn
- Listen to the Research Comms podcast
- Explore the work of Orinoco Communications
- Watch the Oxford VR animation that Peter mentioned
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