Would you get down and boogie to present your research in a more light-hearted and accessible way? These scientists did, and they've now scooped monetary prizes for their efforts.
First place in this year's Dance Your Ph.D. contest was won by University of Bern student Florence Metz for her study of how scientists, industry lobbyists, farmers, and environmental activists shape policy on water use and conservation. Metz has experience in many styles of dance and put these to use representing the different interests that shape debate on scarce water resources.
Metz was awarded $1,000 (£660) and a trip to Stanford University next year after overcoming 31 rival entrants. Sadly, the costumes and equipment required suggest that even if her fellow dancers, camera operators, and production crew donated their services, this is not a solution to the perennial problem of insufficient scholarships for doctoral students.
Metz is the eighth winner of the contest, sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is the first social scientist to win the prize, which seeks to promote public awareness and understanding of science. Already it seems there has been some success in this regard, with Metz saying in a statement: “Family and friends watched the video and became a little [more] familiar with my research work,” she explained. “I feel that the video contributed to making [my] research accessible to a larger crowd of people."
Among other things, Dance Your Ph.D. breaks down the lingering perception that scientists are narrowly focused people lacking external interests or skills.
Metz also won the social science prize. Winners of the physics, chemistry and biology sections each take home $500 (£330). This year these include a tango on the entanglement of photon pairs by the University of Oxford's Merritt Moore. Pearl Lee of the University of Sydney demonstrated just how much elasticity the molecule tropoelastin gives to skin and arteries. And Jyaysi Desai of Ludwig Maximilian University drew on traditional Indian dance to explain how immune cells called neutrophils protect us from bacteria.
Winning first place can be a ticket to plenty of recognition, with past winners having racked up tens of thousands of views on YouTube. Other entrants might get a tenth of that, which is sad because the depth of talent can be extraordinary. Check out this stunning shadow dance from Stockholm Environment Institute's Tahia Devisscher on the threat of fire to the Amazon as just one example.
The contest is judged by four scientists from diverse fields who, unlike most academic assessors, are keen for more work. Contest organizer John Bohannon said: “I want to send a shout out to all IFLScience fans: If you're working on a Ph.D. (or already have one), dance your Ph.D. next year!”