We spoke to Carrie Boyce, winner of the Special Award of Inclusive Science Engagement 2022, about her achievements since her pitch at the Falling Walls Engage Pitches.


What is your project about?

The world’s first award-winning, community-driven and science-themed drag show, Science is a Drag celebrates science through the powerful art of drag. Established in 2019, the show was created to challenge cis-heteronormative stereotypes and archaic notions of professionalism in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and to provide a safe and empowering platform for queer scientists to feel creative and unrestricted in their science communication efforts. It also provides a safe and accessible space for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community and its allies to engage with science without fear of exclusion or judgment.

Our kings and queens serve drama and science in equal measure, turning live DNA extractions into burlesque performances, highlighting the climate crisis with lip syncs and fiery costume reveals, challenging peoples’ perceptions of bees using Pictionary and showing us the correct techniques for flossing using feather boas. Whether through stand up, lip syncs, dance demos, or something else entirely, our performers share research in ways we can’t forget!


What made you start this project and how did Falling Walls Engage, and its community, contribute to the further development of your project?

Members of our organizing team had been told they were too much for science–too “bubbly” or too “feminine”, that they needed to be less flamboyant, wear less makeup, and speak less frequently about social issues. Inspired by the drag queens we saw in our hometowns, we decided to push back in the most defiant way possible–by bringing drag and science together.

With the growing popularity of RuPaul’s Drag Race, we also knew this would be a successful model to pull new people into a science event. Indeed, over half our audience report they had never been to a science event before, but were intrigued to come to our show because they love drag.

We wanted to create an inclusive and welcoming space for learning about science through the powerful art of drag. Drag performers are revered leaders and activists in queer spaces, with the charisma and talent to talk about serious topics in an approachable and entertaining way. We wanted to create a space for our performers and audience to bring their full, authentic selves to a science space.

Winning the Special Award for Inclusive Science Engagement from a respected, international body like the Falling Walls Foundation was a fantastic level of recognition, legitimizing an initiative that some may initially balk at. There’s tremendous power in marrying science and art, and in supporting community-driven, intersectional, grassroots initiatives that create welcoming spaces for groups who have traditionally been excluded from science.

Did you experience an increase in visibility of your project through the collaboration with Falling Walls Engage? How is this noticeable?

Yes! This is one of the most special things about winning–presenting on the main stage during the Breakthrough Day created a massive amount of exposure for the project.

We’ve since been featured in popular science blogs, written a book chapter for Women Transforming the Landscape of Science and Tech, partnered with The Aspen Institute’s Science and Society program to explore barriers to 2SLGBTQ+ participation and retention in STEM, been invited to showcase Science is a Drag as a case study for inclusive science engagement at international conferences, received funding support, AND we’re developing a radio documentary with CBC’s Quirks & Quarks (a popular science-themed radio program in Canada) to air during Pride month in June.
Who knows, maybe one day we’ll even get to make a movie documentary about the project as well! Of course our social media following has also grown as a result and tickets for our upcoming show sold out in FOUR MINUTES! Needless to say, we had to find a larger venue – a very nice problem to have.

"I don't think any of this could have happened without our success and your support at Falling Walls last year."

Carrie Boyce

What makes Falling Walls Engage unique to you?

Becoming part of a global community that celebrates excellence in science engagement is such a privilege, and one I don’t take lightly. Being able to learn from and contribute to the collective shared wisdom around the world is truly unique and brings so much added value to my practice. It’s our responsibility as practitioners to unite in a common goal of showcasing and legitimizing science engagement as being not just nice to have but essential for functioning, democratic society.

What was your most emotional experience when you think about your collaboration with Falling Walls Engage?

There have been a few emotional moments but they all boil down to a similar theme–support.
When I experienced brain freeze mid-pitch and a second or two of blanking felt like an eternity, cheers of support and encouragement from the audience allowed me to regain my footing and finish my pitch without breaking down! Of course receiving the Special Award for Inclusive Science Engagement was in itself an incredibly moving experience–that the jury heard our call and acted meant the world in that moment. And then knowing the enormous amount of work that went on behind the scenes to allow me to present my pitch on the main stage during the Breakthrough Day–that was on another level and it wouldn’t have been possible without all the amazing and supportive people behind Falling Walls. All of that community and support is what makes both Science is a Drag and Falling Walls Engage so special.

Carrie Boyce is the Executive Director of the Royal Canadian Institute for Science (RCIScience), Canada’s oldest scientific society that’s been connecting Canadians with science since 1849! With over ten years of experience working in the field of science communication and public engagement, it’s fair to say Carrie’s become a Jack of all trades, master of some… Originally from Northern Ireland, she moved to Cambridge, England to pursue a degree in Natural Sciences, before working for organisations like the University of Cambridge, the Royal Society of Chemistry and Cancer Research UK. Eager for life’s next adventure, she moved to Canada in 2017 and has been happily working with RCIScience (and drinking maple syrup) ever since.

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