Science Communication

Science Magazine awarded me as the overall winner of the 2015 Dance Your PhD Contest.

The idea of the contest is for scholars to create a video in which they explain the topic of their PhD thesis through a dance performance. My video has received widespread attention on YouTube and in the media, which allowed me to touch a broad audience worldwide in hopes of raising awareness around water protection and policy-making.  Although “sciencetainment” is no alternative to traditional academic work, it can nonetheless act as a complementary channel for disseminating knowledge beyond academia.



Description of the video

The PhD thesis underlying this dance video explores the question concerning ways in which to achieve effective water protection policies. Designing innovative water policies requires the concerted action of diverse parts of society, economy, and politics.

In the video, several dancing styles (hip hop, house, salsa, acrobatics) stand for diverse political groups, which fight over the use and the protection of water resources. Water bodies are symbolized by a fish bowl. The environmentalist shown at the beginning of the video tries to protect the fish bowl (i.e. waters), while agriculture and industry ultimately acquire the fishbowl for use as a sink for their effluents.

Societal issues, such as the overuse of waters, can attract attention within the political realm. In order to portray a political agenda setting, the video features a researcher whose results contribute to placing a societal issue on the political agenda.

After agenda setting, the video goes on to display negotiations among different types of political groups who strive to solve an underlying issue. The video first presents a salsa dance, which symbolizes “the state”, i.e. diverse governmental bodies that become active in the policymaking process. Subsequently, the video shows a hip hop choreography representing agricultural groups, a house dance signifying industrial associations, and acrobatics embodying environmentalists. Using these groups, I seek to illustrate that in policymaking processes, diverse interests express their policy preferences and fight over political influence.

The next scene in the video shows policy actors who form opposing coalitions and stand in conflict with each other. This segment also illustrates that veto players, such as parliaments, can block the entire policymaking process through their no-vote on a legal act. The video portrays veto players’ power through their action of turning off the music.

The subsequent scene features brokers, who mediate in policymaking processes between opposing coalitions in seeking common ground and overcoming conflicts. In the video, four people representing different interests look at each other and realize that they’re dancing the very same dance move, just in a slightly different style—which symbolizes the common ground that brokers typically strive to share.

The final choreography take integrates dance moves from diverse styles (hip hop, house, salsa) to illustrate that through mutual exchange, policy designs have the potential to successfully solve an underlying policy issue, such as improving water quality. The dance video concludes on a positive note as the water in the fish bowl is finally clean again. Of course, reality is more complex than the story in this dance video. With its simple message, the video invites spectators to explore in more depth the research fields of policy studies, environmental governance, and policy networks.