Could using naked boobs help attract people’s attention to science? The Tumblr blog Boobs for Science has just proved it’s no joke. The blog requires volunteers to send photos of themselves naked or wearing underwear, together with a sign featuring a scientific statement of their choice. Some pictures are then published with a concise scientific explanation on the chosen topic.
Following a few complaints of sexism, the blog has also started to welcome photos of male models.
It’s easy to get attention with naked bodies on the internet, but the blog is not just another click bait: its goal is actually to foster discussion about scientific topics.
So, does it actually work to engage people in science?
I spoke on the phone with Lara Tait, a 30-years old web marketer with a background in paleoanthropology. She created the blog together with her boyfriend from Milan, Italy. Lara kindly agreed to answer my questions. Below is an edited version of our interview:
According to Tait, people are not just interested in the saucy pictures. Apparently, she is getting much more feedback on the scientific messages than on the anatomy of the models.
When I looked at the Italian Facebook page--an English version has just been opened--the majority of discussions where indeed about scientific topics. And I had a hard time finding someone drooling over the nude photos. It may simply depend on careful filtering operated by Tait, but it doesn’t matter. It’s a sign that the strategy works for a number of people.
Will it work in the long run?
Boobs for Science is doing quite well in the short term. However, science communication needs a long-term vision, and photos of naked or semi-naked bodies won’t work forever as an eye-catcher.
How long will it take before even boobs will become a bore for the audience? Tait is confident about the future of her blog: she believes that if people will get bored by nudes, well, they will read the science. I am not so optimistic about it. In the long term, people may look elsewhere for funny or exciting new stuff and the site may just lose audience.
The bottom line
Whatever the future will bring, I believe the blog has done a good job engaging people into the discussion. The project has indeed assembled a bunch of contributors of both sexes with a genuine interest in science.
The approach is somewhat naïve (e.g. regarding the choice of topics) and many would find it inappropriate for the composed world of science. But it seems to work, at least in the short term. You would be amazed to see how many bigger–read: expensive–initiatives are failing to reach a reasonable amount of public – including a few EU-sponsored projects that I have seen in my line of work. If only for this reason, Boobs for Science has my sympathy. And it doesn’t cost a euro to the taxpayer.
Featured image credit: Boobs for Science
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