Behind the Scenes of KITP Online Talks

UCSB alumna Alina Gutierrez joined KITP in 2016 as a student computing assistant, providing technical support to visiting scientists and assisting with the freely accessible, online recordings. She worked directly with our visiting scientists to minimize their time spent on technical difficulties and maximize time spent interacting. Alina eagerly took on additional tasks, such as those associated with managing the institute’s website, and quickly learned many of KITP’s custom technology systems.

After graduating in 2017, Alina accepted the role of Assistant to KITP’s Director, providing administrative support to the Director. From this new vantage point, Alina gained a broader perspective on the organization, all the while continuing to maintain the website, learn new technologies and contribute to the overall enterprise.

Her ongoing affinity for technology, creative problem-solving and passion for accessible academia motivated Alina to apply for a newly-created KITP position, the Online Talks - Production & IT Coordinator, a role which she started in early 2019. Viewing this as an opportunity to make a bigger impact, Alina enthusiastically explained, “The ability to freely access two decades of high-level physics discussions across many subfields and disciplines is invaluable to intellectually curious individuals around the world who may be unable to join us in Kohn Hall.”

In close partnership with Doug Eardley, the UCSB Physics professor who created KITP Online Talks over two decades ago, Alina has taken the lead in managing the majority of the production efforts for the KITP Online Talks. Alina’s efforts and innovations have immediately made a difference.

For decades, KITP has recorded and posted nearly every talk in Kohn Hall, from daily program talks, to weeklong conferences and outreach events. In addition to full length presentations, the recordings also capture the discussions that occur during and afterwards. Talks are typically published online within a few hours of the recording, enabling responsive engagement and remote collaboration, and dramatically extending KITP’s scientific reach to those unable to attend programs.

The archival history is equally valuable in its longevity, with talks continually used as references years after being originally recorded and posted. There are nearly 20,000 talks online dating from late 1997 to February 2020, representing a remarkable open access channel to the research catalyzed at KITP.

Pedagogical talks including publicly accessible talks like Chalk Talks and Public Lectures as well as pan-program colloquia, like Blackboard Lunches, and High School Physics Teacher’s Conferences are all cross-posted on KITP’s YouTube channel to reach a wider audience. All videos posted to the KITP YouTube channel now have optional closed-captioning as an additional source of accessibility. Over the past year as talks became regularly cross-posted on YouTube, the channel has grown to represent 20% of KITP’s overall audience, with over 100,000 views and 1.1 million impressions across YouTube and external sites in 2019, a year-to year growth of 62%.

During 2019, remote viewers watched an average of 640 hours of recorded talks per day. An average of 3 hours of talks take place per day in Kohn Hall, so the total audience via recordings is roughly 7 times the in-building audience.

Beginning in 2020, Alina has started to assign Digital Object Identifiers (DOI) to each posted talk. DOI is a standardized citation service that can be used to identify talks, with the goal of increasing the citability in research papers of the posted talks. As Online Talks integrate a standardized citation service with DOI, the impact of talks given at KITP and posted at KITP Online Talks will be more fully measurable. In addition, the DOI registration for each talk encourages more speakers to share their talks publicly at an early stage in their research, prior to publication. This effort boosts the amount of featured nascent questions asked in Online Talks recordings and progressively broadens the interdisciplinary, worldwide connections made at KITP.

While Alina continues to maintain the excellent legacy of KITP Online Talks, she also innovates, explores new ideas, and identifies ways to reach broader audiences. Her purpose remains clear throughout, noting that “KITP is an excellent place of high scientific impact for scientists from everywhere to gather and connect; our online talks library shares these unique connections to an even wider scope of scientists.”

Alina’s work now extends to assisting with recording all of KITP’s remote activities necessitated by the current pandemic.



- Lisa Stewart, Chief Administrative Officer, KITP
KITP Newsletter, Spring 2020