While incorporating animations into papers as discussed in the May 2016 “From the Editor” column of Interpretation (Marfurt and Farley, 2016) is a practice that, as an author, Marfurt plans to adopt for most of his future publications, the value of recorded abstracts juxtaposed with the effort required to create them is somewhat more difficult for him to embrace. This matter is generational. As a late-career geoscientist, Marfurt still reads a printed newspaper with a ceramic cup of coffee each morning (Figure 1a). When he goes to work, however, few, if any, of his mid-career colleagues read printed news, instead obtaining their news through online subscriptions (Figure 1b). His still younger students also access the news online but often prefer to use smartphone technology (Figure 1c). Without a doubt, access to information in the modern world is changing.
Since its inception, Interpretation has offered the ability to post mpeg-format abstracts. At the very least, all such abstracts would have an audio component. In the simplest case, the author would record a reading of the abstract, such as that by Zhao et al. (2016), showing a key figure that summarizes the content of the paper as demonstrated in Figure 2. For those authors more confident in their ability to record their voices in English, the mpeg-format abstract would be constructed as an inducement to the listener to download and read the paper, including perhaps an image that describes the problem and one that shows a representative result of the work. Figure 3 shows the mpeg-format abstract Marfurt wishes he had provided for a paper he wrote in 2015. Creation of such mpegs is easy, especially if one uses Microsoft PowerPoint, which is commonly used to construct SEG and AAPG oral presentations. After connecting a microphone and defining it under “Sounds” to be your default “Playback” and “Recording” device, one selects “Slide Show” with the left mouse button on the main menu bar and simply clicks the “Record Slide Show” option. Be sure to place a checkmark in front of the “Slide and animations timings” and the “Narrations and laser pointer” options. The laser pointer is invoked by holding the control button and left mouse button down at the same time, allowing the author to indicate features of interest in the figure. We find it easiest to record one slide at a time, hitting “Escape” to stop recording. If recording more than one slide at a time, be aware that transition voice-over will be muted as you move between slides. Review your file first in PowerPoint to determine if you need to rerecord any figure. Save your file. Rerecord as necessary by selecting “Start recording from current slide.” Finally, convert your two or three PowerPoint slides to mpeg format using the “Export” option discussed in the Marfurt and Farley (2016) “From the Editor” article on animation. Click this link for audio instructions on how to record: s1.mp4.
There are several incentives in moving to mpeg-format abstracts. First, Interpretation abstracts are free to access, delivering the author’s key message to the world, not just to the journal subscribers, but also enticing interested readers to either access the article through their local library, pay to download a copy of the article, or perhaps subscribe to the journal. Second, an mpeg-format abstract reaches younger members who prefer doing much if not most of their browsing on smartphones. Third, even older readers like the first author of this article may be able to better use their “down time” in airports and hotel rooms while on business trips (Figure 4).
Overcoming the anxiety of recording
For many of us, the only time we hear our own voice is from the message recorded on our voicemail. Be prepared to make two or three attempts at recording to get your abstract to sound the way you want. Non-native English speakers may be concerned that they have an accent. Tao Zhao asked me this question when recording the mpeg-abstract shown in Figure 2. My question to him was whether he had attended the most recent SEG meeting in Denver. After a positive response, my follow-up question was what percentage of the presenters spoke English without an accent. Depending on the session, the percentage ranges from 0% to 50%. Finally, as you will hear from the recorded abstract in Figure 3, while Marfurt tries hard to sound “like the man on the 6 o’clock news,” he still sounds closer to Ernie of Sesame Street than Scott Pelley of CBS News. It’s time to surmount our anxiety and adopt the new technology.
Thanks to Hongliu Zheng, Don Herron, Balazs Nemeth, and Ted Bakamjian for their insight and edits to improve this column.