The RiverWebs film project: How valuable are human stories in communicating science? How can media producers access human stories in science?

December 1st, 2010 | EVALUATION

WHAT IS RIVERWEBS? RiverWebs is an educational documentary film about river food webs and recent pioneering reearch that has explored their relationships to forest food webs, produced for PBS broadcast and DVD distribution RiverWebs uses a dramatic true story shared by several ecologists to engage viewers in the life and science of river ecosystems, and in the scientific process itself RiverWebs used a filmmaking approach that was very collaborative with scientists and included complete transparency, cooperative development, and a content standards and accuracy committee to engage scientists more deeply in the film.

WHAT HAS RIVERWEBS ACHEIVED? RiverWebs has been broadcast to reach nearly 100 million U.S. homes in 40 states through public television Nearly 2000 DVDs have been distributed Classroom and Japanese versions of RiverWebs are in production.

WHAT HAS RIVERWEBS CONTRIBUTED TO ISE? Surveys of RiverWebs audiences indicate:

  • The film has high educational and entertainment value
  • A human story can provide an enriched context to learn about scientific knowledge and methods

Surveys of RiverWebs cooperating scientists indicate:

  • Ecological scientists may be wary of sharing information with media agents, and most have had negative prior experiences with media agents.
  • Our collaborative filmmaking approach eased scientist concerns, and encouraged scientists to share more with our project than they otherwise would have.
  • All surveyed scientists had a positive experience participating in the film.

The audience survey used in the study is included in the appendix of this report.



Team Members

Jeremy Monroe, Evaluator, Freshwaters Illustrated


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: AISL
Award Number: 0436594
Funding Amount: 75000

Related URLs

Riverwebs: Crossing Boundaries to Explore the Hidden Mysteries of Streams


Audience: Evaluators | General Public | Museum | ISE Professionals | Scientists
Discipline: Ecology | forestry | agriculture | Education and learning science | Geoscience and geography | Life science | Nature of science
Resource Type: Evaluation Reports | Formative | Research and Evaluation Instruments | Survey
Environment Type: Broadcast Media | Media and Technology