Going back to the skill set of a research scientist: communication by means of scientific presentation is certainly one that a good research scientist must have. All research scientists have to present in their career, going from informal lab meetings to prestigious international conferences, and most scientists will have to publicly defend their PhD thesis sooner or later. The purpose in its most basic form is always the same: the presenter communicates his data. But even though the purpose is always the same, the target is missed quite often. We all know that there is a huge difference in the quality of these talks. Everybody will agree that the best talks are always accompanied with declarative, useful and concise visual support. Microscopic images and graphical representation of data are the most commonly used, but declarative schemes, scientific illustrations and animations are extremely useful in this context too. Every research scientist should use them; it will make their presentations much better.
We have all seen these mind-blowing high-end scientific animations. The type that is exceptionally useful for understanding difficult scientific matter, the type that explains a whole chapter of a textbook in 3 minutes of video. Not a lot of research scientists use this kind of animation in their own work to communicate data, because they do not have access to it or do not have enough financial resources. Very professional and specialized production companies generate these movies, mainly for pharmaceutical companies. The research scientist is most often not the primary target customer.
In non-pharma labs or in basic research labs that typically have less financial resources, there is a big gap between these high-end videos and no video at all. There is almost no intermediate level, a level that would be perfectly suited for a research scientist. Indeed, new data are found in research every day and consequently working hypotheses and theories change quite often. Animation of these theories is not worth the investment most of the time since it changes so rapidly. This is where another level of scientific animation comes into play, a level that allows rapid production and rapid modification. This would allow a research scientist to actively revise the working hypothesis and theories, and ultimately this could lead to new insights and discoveries. This is a more dynamic and flexible way of communicating theories.