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Behind the Scenes: The Birth, Growth, and Impact of My YouTube Channel on ECRs

Stepping into the world of YouTube was never a calculated career move for me. It was more of a serendipitous stumble into a world that would soon become my platform, my voice, and my community. 

As a lover of science and academia, I sought to share my knowledge and experiences, never fully grasping the profound impact it would have on Early Career Researchers (ECRs) around the globe. 

Today, I invite you on a journey—a look behind the camera, into the heart and soul of what drives this channel.

From its unexpected inception to the subjects that have stirred academic souls, let’s dive deep into the story of a YouTube channel that sought to make a difference.

The Accidental Channel

Sometimes, the best things in life come about in the most unexpected ways. 

When my science communication start-up didn’t pan out as I’d hoped, I sat back and envisioned my ideal lifestyle. That included location independence, assets that keep giving, and a community that grows with me. 

YouTube was the natural answer to that dream. 

In 2020, I dived in, starting not one, but five YouTube channels! It was a bit like throwing spaghetti at the wall, using the scientific process to see what stuck. Lo and behold, my PhD advice found its audience. 

It reminded me of my start-up days, realizing the undeniable draw of a hungry audience. But the true surprise? My PhD-related content didn’t just resonate—it practically exploded. And that’s thanks to all of the lost and unsure PhD students that watched my content. 

Their engagement and shares encouraged me to keep diving deeper into the academic world, with honesty and transparency at the forefront.

Why did it work? Maybe because I’m not tethered to any institution, giving me the freedom to share those candid academia tales. Those stories, often whispered in hushed tones or not voiced at all, found a stage on my channel.

Tuning in to the Pulse: Responses and Feedback

Feedback, dear readers, is like gold dust for content creators. 

Especially in the early days, it was comments and messages, that fuelled my drive. I sensed a profound opportunity to make a difference in the PhD and ECR community.

To this day, I keep a cherished collection of those messages, my little treasure trove for days when doubts creep in.

A cardinal rule I’ve adhered to? Always, always listen to my audience. It’s been the cornerstone of the channel’s growth. 

Your preferences, interests, and curiosities have been my guiding star and will always be the data on which I base my content making decisions. 

Spotlight on Top Topics: Subjects ECRs Loved Most

I love trying out new content ideas and seeing how the audience reacts. I use this feedback to inform my future videos and I am always up for trialling new types of content. Once they work, I know that I should keep on delivering more content like that. 

Here are the subjects that got everyone talking:

PhD Realities: My breakout video tackled the unspoken truths about pursuing a PhD. It was a candid look behind the curtain of academia, and I’ve made it my mission to keep serving that brand of unfiltered advice.

From PhD applications to defending your thesis – I want a channel that has actionable advice rooted in experience with a touch of unfiltered advice for every step of a PhD journey and beyond.  

AI in Academia: Around the time AI tools like ChatGPT made their debut, my channel began buzzing with excitement. The promise of AI in academia is vast—from simplifying literature reviews to aiding in writing. I’m all in on exploring how these tools can revolutionize academic work.

I’m lucky that fortunate timing worked in my favour for this type of content, and I truly believe that AI tools will play an increasingly important role in academia in years to come. 

It’s time for the archaic systems in academia to catch up to the fast-moving advancements of AI technology. The institutions and academics that embrace these tools early on will be the ones with the unfair advantage. 

Academic Scandals: Lately, the community has shown a keen interest in academic scandals and retractions. It’s essential to be aware of the darker side of the academic realm, the shortcuts some take, and the pitfalls to avoid. 

I think it is another way of ensuring that people understand what the academic game is really like and the ways in which people are trying to gain the system for an unfair advantage. Going into academia with your eyes wide open is one of the best ways to ensure that you can survive your PhD.

A Community in the Making: Engaging with a Growing Subscriber Base

One of the most rewarding aspects of this journey? Watching our ECR community flourish. There’s an undeniable power in being connected and informed.

And while I’m thrilled with what we’ve achieved so far, there’s so much more on the horizon. I’m brimming with ideas and aspirations for the channel’s future.

Wrapping up

What began as a quest for a certain lifestyle has evolved into so much more—a thriving community, a platform for candid academic discourse, and a space where ECRs can find genuine insights and camaraderie. 

Here’s to more learning, growth, and helping the next generation of academics survive the sometimes-hostile academic system. 

About the Author
  • Andrew Stapleton

    Dr. Andy Stapleton earned a PhD in Chemistry in 2011. For a decade, Andy delved deep into research on renewable energy and solar cells in academia, securing grants, lecturing, and mentoring young scientists. Now, through a popular YouTube channel and blog, Andy shares insights about the academic world, helping many navigate their career choices and new AI tools for academia. Off-screen, Andy indulges in hobbies like sewing, drumming, and always has an appetite for learning.

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