We started Gross Science to inspire young people to be curious about the world and find their love for science. Grotesque stories are inherently captivating, and they do a great job of revealing the wonder—and sometimes even beauty—of nature, medicine, and technology. Most science shows on YouTube have an overwhelmingly male audience, but we hoped this show would attract young women, as well as men. We wanted to make sure young people everywhere know it's ok to explore, ask questions (even embarrassing ones), and be lifelong learners.
Producer and host Anna Rothschild creates one video a week about a gross or bizarre science subject. We felt strongly that having a woman host would encourage more young women to watch the videos. Anna uses playful, handcrafted animations to draw in her audience—the animations are so eye-grabbing that even people without a love of science want to watch. Each video follows the gross narrative, but along the way you learn some fundamental science concepts—from genetic drift, to nitrogen cycling. Occasionally, the show will even address a somewhat taboo issue—like gastrointestinal problems or menstruation—to show viewers that it's ok talk about embarrassing subjects in a respectful way. The series employs the great storytelling and accuracy that NOVA is known for, but brings the world of science to a younger audience. In order to promote the show, we decided to cultivate audiences on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, as well as YouTube, to reach parents, teachers, and students where they are. Anna also stays very involved in the comments section of her YouTube channel to answer follow-up science questions viewers have, and to maintain a personal connection with her audience.
Since the show launched in April of 2015, it has gained over 65,000 subscribers and over 7.5 million views. Furthermore, the audience tends to hover between 40-50% female, with many young women commenting and asking questions every week. Teachers—from middle school through college—regularly show the videos in their classes, and parents write in often to tell us how much their kids like the show. Some kids have even sent in their own response videos, trying out experiments we've posted. People of all ages have also sent in comments saying how grateful they are to have someone explain a mystifying health issue to them—and that they'd been too afraid to ask their doctor for help. The YouTube comments section is largely a place for intelligent discourse. Many viewers comment every week, and some great story ideas have come from viewer questions or suggestions. Furthermore, through our social media outreach, episodes of the show have been picked up by many popular publications, like, BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, Refinery29, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Self, Bustle, and Salon.