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I had the idea to create a series of short-form educational videos intended to de-mystify quantum computing. Ideally, these videos would be suitable for a wide target audience and consequently would, by necessity, involve simplifications and some lack of rigour, however I am adamant that they must not compromise on accuracy for the sake of accessibility.

For context, I am a 4th year (FHEQ Level 7) undergraduate student with a background in quantum mechanics and quantum information who aims to pursue postgraduate research in the field. My concern is whether it is responsible to create educational content at my level of expertise. All the content I produce would adhere to proper referencing conventions and be contextualised by my qualifications. Whilst I would obviously not publish anything I knew to be false, it would defeat the point entirely if I were to accidentally misinform my audience.

I would be grateful to hear perspectives on the ethics of such a project. Would it be irresponsible to assume a role as an instructor at this stage in my education? Would it be a good idea to ask an expert at my institution to review the content I create prior to uploading it? As an academic, is this the sort of request you would be happy to fulfil?

My view is that, provided I am faithful to established literature and what I have been taught, any inaccuracies would be considered 'acceptable' for people studying at my level and below; I would be considered qualified to tutor students at a lower level and I would not expect my peers to learn much from my content. Despite this, I recognise that simplifying concepts is a difficult task and a really solid conceptual understanding is necessary to make sure important details are not lost in simplifications.

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    For a good undergraduate it would be hard to make content worse than much of it out there…
    – Jon Custer
    Jan 24 at 18:46
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    From watching too much bad videos: take care with sound (and avoid adding loud irrelevant music).
    – ghellquist
    Jan 25 at 7:44
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    About half the internet consists of people saying things about topics they have no formal education in, that they know very little about, with seemingly no consideration of whether they might be wrong, and they're often wrong, and often in ways that cause a lot of harm to many people. The fact that you're worrying that you might not know enough to educate others already suggests that you're approaching that responsibly.
    – NotThatGuy
    Jan 25 at 12:53
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    "it would defeat the point entirely if I were to accidentally misinform my audience" - not really. Being misinformed is not a binary property. You might misinform your audience, but if you actually try then you will probably misinform them less than they already were. Jan 25 at 15:48
  • I went to a school that was fairly highly regarded. Some senior undergrads that were looking to continue in academia were often taken on as paid assistant TAs for large introductory classes, which sometimes had them preparing additional material for labs. Everyone seemed to appreciate the system. It took some work off the plate of the graduate students, gave the undergrads some experience, and the students often found it helpful to have someone who went through the same program they were just starting to assuage program-specific concerns.
    – Chuu
    Jan 26 at 15:35

2 Answers 2

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There shouldn't be any ethical issue in a good-faith effort to educate others, especially when you provide proper context, including that of your own level of expertise.

Sometimes, in fact, a book or similar produced by a newcomer to a field can give context to other newcomers that can get them over initial blocks and problems. A "view of a novice" can be enlightening, as long as it is properly put.

But, yes, it would be good to have someone more experienced look over your shoulder as you do this. It will help you be a better presenter and also assure that your possible misconceptions don't get into the work.

Producing it, even if you never actually publish it, would also be likely to increase your own understanding.

What you suggest in the details sounds about right. Just. Do. It. (and have fun along the way)

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    A version of this is that I often find PhD theses to have some advantages when learning a new a topic compared to published reviews, since the thesis will often describe technical points that are too minor for a review, but are still essential to understand for someone who wants to work in the field. You shouldn't ever completely rely on any one source of information of course, but I've definitely found advantages from reading/hearing explanations from knowledgable people at different skill levels.
    – Andrew
    Jan 26 at 1:06
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    "Producing it, even if you never actually publish it, would also be likely to increase your own understanding." - I can confirm this. I create educational material myself occasionally. During that process I often discover gaps in my knowledge and understanding I wasn't aware of and fill them. There is an old saying: "You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to someone else".
    – Philipp
    Jan 26 at 12:19
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I think there are no ethical problems here - I'd state your credentials, be cautious on over-emphasising your knowledge, and get someone to check them through for correctness.

However - If you have a friendly faculty member, there's no harm in asking for help! Personally, I'd love it - if they're good videos, I'd borrow them for educational content. If they're not, explaining to a wider audience is still sure to help your conceptual understanding of the subject. I'm also able to list things like this on the "community engagement and outreach" bit of my publication history, if it goes far enough.

I think most professors keen on teaching will be extremely encouraging of your efforts, even if they don't have time or resources to offer more direct support.

In universities I've worked at, we'd often also have some central resources for decent cameras that can be loaned, AV equipment that can be borrowed. It's worth hunting around for that kind of thing too.

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