John Bohannon, blogger and contributing writer for Science magazine, is admittedly a scientist, not a dancer, but he is the creator of an online dance contest that is quickly becoming a worldwide sensation. This year marks the third annual Dance Your PhD Contest, an interpretative-dance video contest open to anyone with a PhD or pursuing one in a science-related field. The contest, sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, asks scientists to describe their research through dance, videotape it and post their videos online.
“Scientists are competitive by nature, and it turns out that many of them dance,” says Bohannon. “Usually when scientists try to explain their research, it’s a jargon-filled mess, but watching scientists dance their research can make it easier to understand. Sometimes it’s even beautiful––or at least hilarious.”
The first contest in 2008, a single live event, received only 12 submissions, but after moving the 2009 contest online, more than 100 videos from across the globe were posted. This year, submissions (due September 1) will be divided into categories (physics, chemistry, biology and social sciences), and each category’s winner will receive $500 and have their video screened at the Imagine Science Film Festival in New York City in mid-October. There, a panel of judges and the audience will determine the best overall dance, which will receive an additional $500 grand prize.
Photo: A scene from Tufts University student Lara Park’s 2009 Dance Your PhD entry (by Joanie Tobin, courtesy of Tufts University)