We are always striving to communicate more effectively and so when we were offered the opportunity to work with a Communications Assistant (Ryan Turner) on an internship with the University of Exeter’s Graduate Business Partnership we jumped at the chance!  In this guest blog, Ryan picks up the story of how he created this animation to communicate the results of three large Cochrane reviews in just over two minutes!

In January 2018 I joined PenCLAHRC for a three-month internship as a Communications Assistant through the University of Exeter’s Graduate Business Partnership internship scheme. During this time I worked with the Evidence Synthesis Team (EST) to produce a video using VideoScribe to explain the findings of their recently completed systematic reviews of research into treating Recurrent Abdominal Pain (RAP) in children.

RAP affects between 4 and 25% of children. It is pain that has no other identifiable cause and is a diagnosis given once all other serious conditions have been ruled out. There is no consensus about treatment, so clinicians are unsure how best to help children suffering from RAP. To establish what the evidence says, the EST conducted three systematic reviews into the three main approaches to treatment:

  • Dietary interventions,
  • Drugs or Pharmacological interventions,
  • Mind/Body or Psychosocial interventions.

They also produced a paper summarising the findings of these three reviews. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), hypnotherapy and probiotics were found to be promising treatments. No evidence was found for the effectiveness of any drugs. The team concluded that further research is still needed to establish which strain of probiotics is most effective, how best to conduct the CBT, and whether the benefits of these treatments are maintained in the long term.

I am not from a scientific or medical background – I studied History at university – so a healthcare research organisation was an unfamiliar environment for me to be working in, and I experienced a steep learning curve as I got to know the different research projects I was providing communications support for. Everyone at PenCLAHRC was very helpful in explaining anything I was unsure of, and I quickly developed a good understanding of PenCLAHRC’s organisational structure and research.

I initially joined the EST to write a summary of their Robopet systematic review for the PenCLAHRC website. I found this quite straightforward because I was summarising the background of the review, not its results. When I was asked to produce a video summarising the RAP reviews, I found understanding this research much more of a challenge because there was a lot of information to digest, and I had to understand and summarise the background, methods and results of the review. The team were very supportive in helping me understand their research, and I used their summary paper to make notes on the review, which I then developed into a plan to create the video.

Having seen the effectiveness of VideoScribe demonstrated by Nicole Thomas and PenCRU, the EST were keen to use this software for their own video. VideoScribe is software for creating “whiteboard animations”, a type of presentation where text and images are drawn as if on a whiteboard. I had not used this software before so my first task was to understand how it works, which I did by watching a series of tutorial videos on YouTube. Once I had developed an understanding of how to use VideoScribe, and of what it is possible to do with it, I turned my notes into a plan for the video, working out how to present the information in an engaging and visually interesting way. Based on this plan I created the first version of the video, which was far too long at over seven minutes in length. I then shortened this version by cutting unnecessary detail and simplifying the information where possible, reducing the length to four minutes.

However, we were still concerned that this video was too long to be engaging. We therefore decided to create a new version with a voice over, which would reduce the length by requiring less text. The team asked Professor Stuart Logan, PenCLAHRC’s Director who was involved in the review, to provide a two-minute recording explaining the review that we could use as a voice over.


Creating a video based on a voice over presented a different challenge, because I had to fit the visual elements to what was being said. It was particularly tricky to get the timings of when and how quickly text and images appeared on the screen. Eventually, after a lot of hard work, I had produced two videos explaining the Evidence Synthesis Team’s Recurrent Abdominal Pain systematic review: a two-minute version with a voice over, and a more detailed four-minute version without.

video rap

Once the videos were complete, I wrote a summary of the review to appear on the PenCLAHRC project page and a printable summary of the research. I also wrote a user guide for VideoScribe, so that the knowledge and experience that I had gained would not be lost when I left PenCLAHRC. I really enjoyed working with the EST on the RAP videos, and working with the whole team at PenCLAHRC. I hope that my work with VideoScribe has started a new way of presenting research findings at PenCLAHRC, and I hope to see more videos from EST in the future!

You can watch the video on the PenCLAHRC project page or on YouTube

Newlove-Delgado TV, Martin AE, Abbott RA, Bethel A, Thompson-Coon J, Whear R, Logan S. Dietary interventions for recurrent abdominal pain in childhood. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2017, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD010972. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD010972.pub2

Abbott RA, Martin AE, Newlove-Delgado TV, Bethel A, Thompson-Coon J, Whear R, Logan S. Psychosocial interventions for recurrent abdominal pain in childhood. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2017, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD010971. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD010971.pub2

Martin AE, Newlove-Delgado TV, Abbott RA, Bethel A, Thompson-Coon J, Whear R, Logan S. Pharmacological interventions for recurrent abdominal pain in childhood. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2017, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD010973. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD010973.pub2

Abbott RA, Martin AE, Newlove-Delgado TV,  Bethel A, Whear RS, Thompson Coon J, Logan S. Recurrent Abdominal Pain in Children: Summary Evidence From 3 Systematic Reviews of Treatment Effectiveness Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition: July 2018 – Volume 67 – Issue 1 – p 23–33 doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000001922

Photos by Marko Pekić, Timothy Lammfreestocks.org, Toa Heftiba and George Hiles on Unsplash