Develop programme ideas with the BBC: New Generation Thinkers

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Apply to develop and record programmes for the BBC as part of the New Generation Thinkers scheme.

You must be a UK resident based at an eligible UK research organisation and either a:

  • PhD student
  • researcher who, excluding career breaks:
    • finished your PhD in the last eight years
    • started your first paid academic role in the last six years.

Your research must focus on the arts and humanities.

Shortlisted applicants will attend workshops with BBC producers.

If you’re selected as a New Generation Thinker you’ll:

  • attend media and public engagement training
  • experience a year of focused activities and career development
  • have the opportunity to appear in BBC programming.

Who can apply

To apply for the New Generation Thinkers scheme, you must be:

  • a UK resident
  • over the age of 18
  • currently working or studying at a UK research organisation that is eligible to receive funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) (see ‘your organisation’s eligibility’)
  • studying a relevant area of research (see ‘your research’).

You must also be either:

  • a current PhD student who has made considerable progress on your research, for example within one year of submission
  • within eight years of the award of your PhD, excluding any period of career break such as parental leave, caring responsibilities, health reasons, or reasons consequent upon the COVID-19 pandemic
  • within six years of your first academic appointment, excluding any period of career break such as parental leave, caring responsibilities, health reasons, or reasons consequent upon the COVID-19 pandemic. This must be a paid contract of employment, either full-time or part-time, which lists research or teaching as the primary function, including research assistantships.

You do not need to have a permanent contract of employment to be eligible, as long as you meet the conditions above.

You can apply if you have applied to the scheme before, as long as you have never been selected as a New Generation Thinker in any given year.

You can’t apply if you work for the BBC, AHRC or UKRI.

Your organisation’s eligibility

You must be working or studying at an eligible organisation to apply. Your organisation is eligible if it is either:

  • a UK higher education institution that receives grant funding from a UK funding body, such as Research England, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, the Scottish Funding Council or the Department for Employment and Learning Northern Ireland
  • a research institute (PDF, 18KB) which UKRI has established a long-term involvement with as a major funder
  • an independent research organisation (IRO) which has been awarded IRO status by UKRI (PDF, 26KB).

You can find out more about your organisation’s eligibility in section two of the AHRC research funding guide.

Your research eligibility

Your research must have a primary focus in the arts and humanities. Your research could be bringing together arts and humanities research with other non-AHRC funded disciplines, provided you can demonstrate suitable links to the world of arts and humanities and that arts and humanities remains a primary focus.

Your application will be disqualified if the arts and humanities are not a primary focus of your research.

Our main topic areas are:

  • archaeology
  • classics
  • cultural and museum studies
  • development studies
  • history
  • information and communication technologies
  • law and legal studies
  • library and information studies
  • philosophy
  • political science and international studies
  • theology, divinity and religion
  • dance
  • design
  • drama and theatre studies
  • media
  • music
  • languages and literature
  • linguistics
  • visual arts.

You can find a more detailed list on AHRC disciplines.

We don’t prefer applications from any particular research area. We assess all applications on their own merits against the application criteria.

What we're looking for

This prestigious scheme offers early career researchers the opportunity to develop programmes for the BBC. If selected, you’ll workshop ideas with BBC producers, get media and public engagement training, and a platform for informing and influencing public opinion, policy and practice.

The applicants who will go forward to the next round will demonstrate:

  • how one area of their research could make a strong, clearly expressed and engaging programme for Radio 3 of up to 45 minutes
  • how this new research could have the potential to either change public opinion, influence policy or make a difference to people’s lives
  • creativity, originality and the potential to talk and write about other areas within the arts and humanities, in an accessible and interesting manner, particularly to a wider listening audience
  • that you are comfortable talking and writing about ideas from beyond your own research area, in an accessible and interesting way
  • a wide range of interests through their review and description of their current research
  • high standards of scholarship – clearly explained in interesting, well-written, jargon-free language, that’s editorially and stylistically suitable for a BBC audience.

To get a good idea of what we’re looking for, we recommend you listen to work by previous New Generation Thinkers on the BBC website before you apply. You can also find more examples and other information about the scheme on AHRC’s New Generation Thinkers webpage.

How to apply

Applying using the UKRI Funding Service

For research officers

New Generation Thinkers (NGT) cannot be applied for on our Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system. It is one of the opportunities being run on the new UKRI Funding Service.

We have contacted any organisation that submitted applications for NGT 2021, inviting a member of their research office to create a UKRI Funding Service account, with administrator status. We will also contact research offices at ‘new’ organisations whose members apply for NGT 2022. This provides oversight of every application for NGT, opened on behalf of your organisation.

From 1 September 2021, the system will also enable finalised applications to be submitted by your research office to AHRC, which must be received by 23 September 2021 16:00.

If you anticipate researchers from your organisation applying for NGT 2022, but have not already received an invitation to open an account, email support@funding-service.ukri.org.

We are running a webinar for research offices from organisations with potential applicants to the AHRC New Generation Thinkers scheme on 14 July.

Register for our webinar on the new research office functionality (Eventbrite website).

For applicants

NGT cannot be applied for on the Je-S system. It is one of the opportunities being run on the new UKRI Funding Service.

You must apply through the UKRI Funding Service. This will take you to the UKRI Funding Service ‘create an account’ screen (or you can sign in if you already have one). This is a two-minute process, requiring you to verify your email address and create a password. We would urge you to do this as soon as possible to familiarise yourself with the new system’s features and benefits.

The questions and all the guidance you need to answer them are self-contained. Starting an application does not commit you to submitting it. You will see how you can work directly into it or paste in content you have written offline. You can save as you go along, which we recommend doing regularly, and always within an hour of starting a session, so you are not timed out and keep your work secure. Documents cannot be uploaded as attachments.

Submissions open on 1 September 2021, at which point the system will enable you to send your application to your research office. They can either return it for editing, or submit it to UKRI. We recommend sending it to them well ahead of the submission deadline date, which is 23 September 2021 16:00.

If your organisation does not have a research office, the system will enable you to submit directly to AHRC.

We strongly suggest you study and listen to work by previous NGT before you apply. You can find examples of these on the BBC website. You can also find more examples and other information about the scheme on the AHRC website.

You will need to provide the following information when applying:

1. Details and summary

Application name

This should be the title of the programme you would like to make for BBC Radio 3.

Limited to 20 words.

Summary

Provide a brief pitch for an engaging Radio 3 programme of up to 45 minutes.

Focusing on one aspect of your research, give a clear outline of your idea including the format your programme would take.

Keep in mind this will be for a non-academic audience. The assessors are looking for ideas that:

  • are based on a strong and innovative programme concept
  • will engage and excite the public
  • explain the relevance of your research and what the findings mean in an accessible way
  • demonstrate creative and original thinking with personality and flair.

Limited to 250 words.

2. Personal eligibility

You need to be a UK resident, aged 18 or over and must select one of the eligibility criteria listed below.

Eligibility categories

Select which of the three categories below describes you best, then enter ‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘C’ in the space provided.

  • A: A current PhD student who has made considerable progress on your research, for example within one year of submission.
  • B: Within eight years of the award of your PhD, excluding any period of career break such as parental leave, caring responsibilities, health reasons, or reasons consequent upon the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • C: Within six years of your first academic appointment, excluding any period of career break such as parental leave, caring responsibilities, health reasons, or reasons consequent upon the COVID-19 pandemic. This must be a paid contract of employment, either full time or part time, which lists research or teaching as the primary function, including research assistantships.

Briefly add a description of your current situation and how this meets your selected criteria.

Limited to 100 words.

3. Topic eligibility

Select the primary focus of your current research activity from the list of AHRC level two subject disciplines.

Your research could involve bringing together arts and humanities research with other non-AHRC funded disciplines. We welcome interdisciplinary research, but your current work must have the arts and humanities at its heart. Choose the subject discipline that best describes your research.

In the space provided, state your subject discipline.

4. Your current research activity

Briefly describe what you are researching and its broader relevance to a non-academic audience.

Provide a brief explanation of the current arts and humanities research you are undertaking.

The assessors are looking for research that is:

  • new, unique, interesting or challenges current thinking
  • evidenced, scholarly and well written.

Limited to 250 words.

5. Your research history

List the academic institutions where you have been based, the years you were there and the research you undertook.

Include all the academic institutions for whom you have carried out research. Start with the most recent; describe what you did and how you did it, providing any interesting outcomes. You should set this out in the same way you might set out a CV.

The assessors are particularly looking for:

  • a breadth of research interest
  • high standards of scholarship.

Limited to 250 words.

6. Write a review

Review a book, film, play, poetry, current exhibition or cultural event.

Review a new film, play, novel, book of poetry, exhibition or any other cultural event of which you have personal and recent experience. This should be of interest to and written for a non-academic audience, and must be on a topic and discipline separate from your research.

Write the review as if you were going to read it on air as a short essay for BBC Radio 3. You can listen to examples online on the BBC website.

Remember that the ‘Free Thinking’ programme makes a link between arts and ideas, so your review will need to explore ideas within or prompted by the work and not simply discuss its apparent quality.

The assessors are particularly looking for:

  • links between arts and ideas, where you explore ideas within or prompted by the work
  • comfort with communicating ideas outside of your research area in an interesting, well written and engaging manner
  • editorial and stylistic suitability for a Radio 3 audience.

Limited to 250 words.

How we will assess your application

Stage one: assessment

Before we assess an application, AHRC will check it for:

  • eligibility
  • research subject.

Applications that don’t adhere to these rules will be disqualified and will not progress any further. Incomplete, obscene or fraudulent entries will also be disqualified at this stage.

AHRC will then share the entirety of the content of the applications, including applicant contact details, with BBC and AHRC panellists via a secure online portal. AHRC may also share anonymised equality, diversity and inclusion details with the BBC.

AHRC and the BBC will then assess all remaining applications against the assessment criteria below and assign an initial grade (one to six), where one is unsatisfactory and six is exceptional.

After considering all proposals, both AHRC and the BBC will each shortlist up to 60 applications.

Unfortunately, due to the volume of applications, we are not able to provide individual feedback if you are unsuccessful at the application stage.

The shortlisted applications from both BBC and AHRC will be considered at a joint panel meeting where both organisations will agree on the final 60 candidates to attend the workshops.

The chair will ensure that stated processes are adhered to and that all applications are treated in a consistent manner. The chair is also responsible for facilitating the panel discussions. The panel meets as a whole to discuss all the applications selected by the BBC and AHRC and agree final candidates to attend the workshops.

Stage two: workshops

From the written submissions, up to 60 applicants will be chosen to attend a workshop event. At your workshop event, you will:

  • learn from BBC staff how they commission, produce and present radio and television programmes
  • workshop programme ideas with the help of other candidates and producers
  • take part in interactive practice sessions to showcase programme ideas and demonstrate their ability to communicate with the listening audience
  • have the chance to speak to AHRC staff about the scheme, AHRC’s involvement and UKRI more widely
  • meet fellow researchers.

You won’t be competing with other candidates like you would at other interviews. We assess each applicant on their performance as a whole, as well as their application.

We’re not able to pay travel expenses or compensation for time off in lieu of work for attending a workshop. You should approach your organisation, however, to see if they can provide any assistance.

We will provide individual feedback on your performance if you are unsuccessful at the workshop stage. We will provide guidance on how to obtain feedback at the workshops.

If you don’t attend the workshops or our later media training, you’ll be disqualified from the scheme and we won’t pay any expenses.

Stage three: final panel

The Radio 3 team will monitor progress of the workshop attendees and later form a panel to decide who will be selected to be the 10 New Generation Thinkers for 2022.

The workshops and the selection process will be observed by representatives of AHRC and the final decisions will be made in consultation with AHRC.

The panel will use the same criteria as above to decide who is shortlisted, assessing their verbal communications skills as well as written.

We expect that this will happen within 10 working days of the workshops.

Final applicants

Ten successful applicants chosen from the workshops will become an AHRC, Radio 3 New Generation Thinker for 2022. They will:

  • work with BBC producers to develop their own programme ideas for Radio 3 and receive input from BBC Arts
  • be invited to showcase their research and trail their programme idea at the BBC and AHRC events
  • appear regularly on air in Radio 3’s ‘Free Thinking’ programme, available as a BBC ‘Arts & Ideas’ podcast
  • write and present an edition of ‘The Essay’ for Radio 3
  • have the chance to appear at AHRC events, including the Being Human Festival
  • work with AHRC on appearances in the wider media
  • write articles for the AHRC blog and the AHRC website
  • attend a two-day session run by the AHRC on 22 to 23 February 2022 at a central UK location. This will include a media training course, a photograph and filming session and an evening dinner on the first day. You must attend to be part of the scheme.

We will refund travel expenses for the final 10 New Generation Thinkers.

The judging process

The judges’ decision is final. We won’t enter into any correspondence regarding the judges’ decision.

The BBC and AHRC reserve the right to change one or more of the judges if necessary.

The BBC and AHRC reserve the right to disqualify applicants at any stage. We might do this, for example, if we find that:

  • you are ineligible
  • you misrepresented yourself in your application
  • any part of your research background is fraudulent (for example, due to plagiarism)
  • you bring the scheme, AHRC or the BBC into disrepute.

This list is not exhaustive.

Contact details

The UKRI Funding Service helpdesk is here to help with any questions about the service and the AHRC New Generation Thinkers opportunity.

Queries should be directed through the following routes:

Email: Funding service support, support@funding-service.ukri.org

Helpline: 01793 265810.

Additional info

Webinars

We’re offering two online webinars at which you can find out more about the New Generation Thinkers scheme. The webinars will take place on:

  • Wednesday 21 July 14:00
  • Wednesday 25 August 11:00.

Register for the webinar taking place on Wednesday 21 July (Eventbrite website).

Register for the webinar taking place on Wednesday 25 August (Eventbrite website).

Once you register, we’ll send you joining instructions so you can take part in the webinar.

At the webinars, we’ll cover:

  • an overview of the scheme and what to expect
  • some hints and tips for making your application
  • how to use our online application system
  • a chance to ask questions about applying, the scheme and more.

BBC workshops

The following dates are dependent on any COVID-19 social distancing guidance in place at the time and therefore are subject to change.

  • 12 January 2022 (to be confirmed): workshop one
  • 17 January 2022 (to be confirmed): workshop two
  • 19 January 2022 (to be confirmed): workshop three
  • January 2022: final 10 New Generation Thinkers advised
  • 22-23 February 2022: media training, photography and evening event
  • March 2022: finalists record first Radio 3 programme.

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