Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Develop research for BBC platforms: New Generation Thinkers 2023

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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.

You’ll be an up-and-coming early career researcher who wants to share ideas with the largest possible audience.

60 applicants will be invited to BBC workshops, from which 10 will be selected as New Generation Thinkers. Thinkers will then experience a year of focused activity and development from the BBC and AHRC.

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, provided you meet the conditions at the time of your application.

If you have applied to the scheme before, you may apply again provided you have never been selected as a New Generation Thinker in any given year.

You cannot 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
    • Higher Education Funding Council for Wales
    • Scottish Funding Council
    • Department for Employment and Learning Northern Ireland
  • research institute 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

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

We do not 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.

We are looking for applications from a diversity of backgrounds and research disciplines, particularly candidates who can 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 they are comfortable talking and writing about ideas from beyond their 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: clear explanations in interesting, well-written, jargon-free language, that is 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.

Following the success of NGT 2022, many research offices will now have at least one member who has access to a UKRI Funding Service account with administrator status. This enables oversight of any application to UKRI. It also means that finished applications must be sent to that research officer (to check it over) as only they can submit it to UKRI.

If an application for NGT 2023 is started by someone from an organisation that doesn’t have a research officer with a UKRI Funding Service account, we will contact their research office to set one up.

If you anticipate researchers from your organisation applying for NGT 2023, and do not have an account, email support@funding-service.ukri.org.

For applicants

You cannot apply for NGT cannot be applied for on our Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system. All applications must be made through the UKRI Funding Service.

This link 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 sending it for submission. 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 30 June 2022, 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 which is 22 September 2023 16:00 UK time.

If your organisation does not have a research office registered with the new funding service, 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.

Eligibility categories

Select which of the three categories 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: or 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: or 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

Identify the primary focus of your current research

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 one of these main arts and humanities topics at its heart:

  • 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.

In the space provided, state your main subject discipline. This needs to be one of the disciplines listed in pages 88 to 95 of the level two list in the AHRC research funding guide.

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 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 and assign an initial grade.

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 whole panel meets 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 your 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

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 2023.

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 to decide who is shortlisted, assessing their verbal communication skills as well as written.

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

Final applicants

10 successful applicants chosen from the workshops will become an AHRC BBC New Generation Thinker for 2023. 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 and 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 AHRC on 21 to 22 February 2023 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 will not 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

Ask about this opportunity

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:

Once you register, we will send you joining instructions so you can take part.

At the webinars, we will 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

We will inform you by email if you have been selected for the workshop stage by week commencing 5 December 2022.

The workshops will take place at Broadcasting House in London, or at MediaCity in Salford, from 09:30 to 17:30 on the following dates:

  • 11 January 2023
  • 17 January 2023
  • 18 January 2023

We may be required to change the details of these workshops, for example in the event of COVID-19 or travel disruption. This may require workshops to be held on different dates or to take place remotely. If this does happen, we will let you know as soon as possible.

We will advise the final 10 New Generation Thinkers by the end of January 2023. Media training, photography and an evening event will be held in February 2023 (dates and times to be confirmed).

Finalists will record the first Radio 3 programme in March 2023 (dates to be confirmed).

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