Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Develop research for BBC platforms: New Generation Thinkers 2024

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:

  • currently studying for your first PhD and having made considerable progress on your research, for example within one year of submission
  • within eight years of the award of your first 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 at an organisation that is eligible to receive funding from UK Research and Innovation, 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.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

We are committed to achieving equality of opportunity for all funding applicants. We encourage applications from a diverse range of researchers.

We support people to work in a way that suits their personal circumstances. This includes:

  • career breaks
  • support for people with caring responsibilities
  • flexible working
  • alternative working patterns

Find out more about equality, diversity and inclusion at UKRI and AHRC’s equality, diversity and inclusion policy.

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 web page.

How to apply

We are running this funding opportunity on the new UKRI Funding Service. You cannot apply on the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system.

The project lead is responsible for completing the application process on the UKRI Funding Service.

To apply:

  1. Select ‘Start application’ near the beginning of this page.
  2. Confirm you are the project lead.
  3. Sign in or create a UKRI Funding Service account. To create an account, select your organisation, verify your email address, and set a password. If your organisation is not listed, email support@funding-service.ukri.org.
  4. Answer questions directly in the text boxes. You can save your answers and come back to them, or work offline and return to copy and paste your answers. All questions and assessment criteria are listed in the ‘How to apply’ section on this Funding finder page.
  5. Send the completed application to your research office for checking. They will return it to you if it needs editing.
  6. Your research office will submit the completed and checked application to UKRI.

Watch our research office webinars about the new UKRI Funding Service.

Submitting your application

To apply:

  1. Select the ‘Start application’ button at the start of this page.
  2. This will open the ‘Sign in’ page of UKRI’s Funding Service. If you do not already have an account, you’ll be able to create one. This is a two minute process requiring you to verify your email address and set a password.
  3. Start answering the questions detailed in this section of ‘How to apply’. You can save your work and come back to it later. You can also work ‘offline’, copying and pasting into the text boxes provided for your answers.
  4. Once complete, use the service to send your application to your research office for review. They’ll check it and return it to you if it needs editing.
  5. Once happy, your research office will submit it to UKRI for assessment. Only they can do this.

Deadline

The AHRC must receive your application by 3 October 2023 4:00 pm UK time. You will not be able to apply after this time.

Make sure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines.

Personal data

Processing personal data

We will need to collect some personal information to manage your funding service account and the registration of your funding applications.

We will handle personal data in line with UK data protection legislation and manage it securely. For more information, including how to exercise your rights, read our privacy notice.

We will need to share the application and any personal information that it contains with the BBC so that they can participate in the assessment process. For more information on how BBC uses personal information, visit BBC policies and guidelines.

Publication of outcomes

We will publish the outcomes of this funding opportunity in April 2024. If your application is successful, some personal information will be published via the UKRI Gateway to Research.

UKRI Funding Service: section guidance

Summary

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

Word count: 250

Applicants

Assign yourself as project lead.

You should only have one project lead.

Find out more about UKRI’s new grant roles and eligibility.

Word count: 250

Section: Personal eligibility

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

Please select which of the three categories describes you best, then enter ‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘C’ in the space provided:

  • A: you are currently studying for your first PhD and have made considerable progress on your research, for example being within one year of submitting your thesis.
  • B: you are within eight years of the award of your first PhD, excluding any period of career break such as parental leave, caring responsibilities, health reasons, or reasons consequent upon the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • C: you are within six years of your first academic appointment at an organisation that is eligible to receive funding from UK Research and Innovation, 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 only need to meet one of the criteria above, though you may meet more.

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

Word count: 100

Section: Topic eligibility

Question: 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.

Word count: 100

Section: Your current research activity

Question: 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

Word count: 250

Section: Your research history

Question: 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

Word count: 250

Section: Write a review

Question: 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

Word count: 250

How we will assess your application

Stage one: assessment

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

  • eligibility
  • research subject

Applications that do not 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.

We 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. We 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 will then meet 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 2024. They will:

  • work with BBC producers to develop their own programme ideas for BBC platforms
  • be invited to showcase their research and trail their programme idea at the BBC and AHRC events
  • appear on air on BBC radio programmes, available as a BBC ‘Arts and Ideas’ podcast
  • have the chance to appear at AHRC events, including the Being Human Festival
  • work with AHRC on appearances in the wider media
  • attend a two-day session run by AHRC on 20 to 21 February 2024 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 these 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

Sensitive information

If you, or a key team member, need to tell us something you wish to remain confidential, email support@funding-service.ukri.org. Include ‘Sensitive information: [New Generation Thinkers]’ in the subject line.

Typical examples of confidential information include:

  • applicant is unavailable until a certain date (for example due to parental leave)
  • declaration of interest
  • additional information about eligibility to apply that would not be appropriately shared in the ‘applicant and team capability’ section
  • conflict of interest for UKRI to consider in reviewer or panel participant selection
  • the application is an invited resubmission

For information about how UKRI handles personal data, see UKRI’s privacy notice.

Get help with your application

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: support@funding-service.ukri.org
We aim to respond to emails within two working days.

Phone: 01793 547490

Our phone lines are open:

  • Monday to Thursday 8:30am to 5:00pm
  • Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm

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 11 December 2024.

The workshops will take place at Broadcasting House in London, or at MediaCity in Salford, from 9:30am to 5:30pm UK time on the following dates:

  • 10 January 2024
  • 16 January 2024
  • 18 January 2024

We may be required to change the details of these workshops, for example in the event of 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 2024. Media training, photography and an evening event will be held in February 2024 (dates and times to be confirmed).

Finalists will record the first Radio 3 programme in March 2024 (dates to be confirmed).

Research disruption due to COVID-19

We recognise that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused major interruptions and disruptions across our communities. We are committed to ensuring that individual applicants and their wider team, including partners and networks, are not penalised for any disruption to their career, such as:

  • breaks and delays
  • disruptive working patterns and conditions
  • the loss of ongoing work
  • role changes that may have been caused by the pandemic

Reviewers and panel members will be advised to consider the unequal impacts that COVID-19 related disruption might have had on the capability to deliver and career development of those individuals included in the application. They will be asked to consider the capability of the applicant and their wider team to deliver the research they are proposing.

Where disruptions have occurred, you can highlight this within your application if you wish, but there is no requirement to detail the specific circumstances that caused the disruption.

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