We are creating a unified UKRI website that brings together the existing research council, Innovate UK and Research England websites.
If you would like to be involved in its development let us know.

Introducing the 2020 New Generation Thinkers

Date: 26/03/2020

Ten researchers from across the UK have been selected as the 2020 ‘New Generation Thinkers’ in an announcement by BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) today.

Meet the AHRC/BBC New Generation Thinkers for 2020
(Credit: AHRC)
View the transcript for the video (PDF, 96KB)


From our shifting attitudes to waste and gambling, to the true implications of humanitarian aid and the Norwegian black metal scene and toxic masculinity, these researchers will have the prestigious opportunity to communicate their research by making programmes for BBC radio and television.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the scheme, during which 100 early career arts and humanities researchers have had unique access to training and support from AHRC and the BBC. New Generation Thinkers alumni have gone on to become prominent public figures in their field as well as the face of major documentaries, TV series, and regular figures in public debate.

Professor Andrew Thompson, Executive Chair of the AHRC, said: “Since 2010 the New Generation Thinkers scheme has developed ten groups of academics to bring the best of university research and scholarly ideas to a broad audience through media and public engagement.

“Now, more than ever, we need to share the rich and diverse array of research in the world of arts and humanities with the public and open the window to a world of research that will amaze and engage.”

Throughout the year, the new cohort will work with BBC producers to develop their ideas to showcase a vibrant mix of research from across the arts and humanities that will capture the public imagination. Some are asking us to look at things differently and challenge our assumptions, such as exploring how humanitarian aid can be bad if not approached carefully, while others will examine questions about our shifting attitudes towards challenges we face, such as the way smartphone technologies are transforming young people’s relationship with online gambling today.

Alan Davey, Controller, BBC Radio 3, said: “At Radio 3 we want as many people as possible to have life enhancing cultural experiences, especially in these extraordinary times. Since the New Generation Thinkers launch ten years ago in 2010, it has changed the nature of academic debate on Radio 3. The scheme has supported and nurtured some extraordinary talent, and given the broadcasters of tomorrow a platform to spotlight fresh ways of thinking about both the past and present.

“Looking to the future, I can’t wait to hear what new ideas and research this year’s cohort will bring to our listeners in the Free Thinking discussions and Essays we broadcast for BBC Radio 3 and the Arts & Ideas podcast. I hope their experience of working with us on shaping ideas feeds into their teaching and helps them reach a wider public.  Now, more than ever, the public need new dynamic ideas from dynamic great minds.”

The New Generation Thinkers scheme is one of the major ways the AHRC engages the public with the inspiring research taking place across the UK. It’s a chance for early career researchers, with support and training provided by AHRC and the BBC, to cultivate the skills to communicate their research findings to those outside the academic community; helping the next generation of researchers find new and wider audiences for their research by giving them a platform to share their ideas and allowing them to have the space to challenge our thinking.

New Generation Thinkers are also exemplars for AHRC’s academic community, leading the way for other researchers and inspiring other arts and humanities researchers to get into public engagement.

The successful ten were selected from hundreds of applications from researchers at the start of their careers. They have all demonstrated a passion for communicating their work and a skill for making complex areas of study engaging, accessible, and enlightening.

Visit the AHRC website to find out more about the scheme.

Meet the New Generation Thinkers 2020:

Christienna Fryar
Christienna Fryar wants us to rethink the impact of Britain’s imperial and postcolonial entanglements in the Caribbean region on the way we view British history.  She has been appointed to run the first taught MA at a British university in Black British History at Goldsmiths, University of London.  Prior to this she was lecturing on slavery at the University of Liverpool and her research interests include global sports and race as well as language politics in Modern Britain, the British Empire, and the British Commonwealth. She is writing a book which looks at the way disasters in Jamaica after the end of slavery shaped ideas about British imperialism.

Seren Griffiths
Seren is an archaeological scientist and heritage specialist who has worked across Europe, Iran, Australia, and the USA using her knowledge of radiocarbon dating. Her research includes the history of archaeology, including the story of an intelligence officer in First World War who recorded prehistoric finds on the Western Front, while under sniper fire.  She directs a public archaeology excavation on an internationally important prehistoric site on Anglesey at Bryn Celli Ddu (“The Mound of the Dark Grove”), working with members of the public, artists, composers, and heritage agencies. In 2019, the project uncovered important early Bronze Age burials, and 6,420 visitors took part in the associated Festival of Archaeology. She has just been awarded a major, new, one million pound research project looking at radiocarbon dating monuments from the time of Stonehenge. After studying at Oxford, and Cardiff universities, and working in industry for Oxford Archaeology and at the University of Central Lancashire, she is about to take up a post as Senior Lecturer in Archaeological Science and Heritage at Manchester Met University. 

Diarmuid Hester
Why should we value waste? Diarmuid Hester is a radical cultural historian who researches attitudes towards rubbish and consumption in the world’s most wasteful megacity: New York. Looking at figures like writer James Baldwin, artist Robert Rauschenberg, and photographer Gordon Parks, Diarmuid’s work shows that the culture of marginalised groups allows us to see waste differently. Diarmuid is the creator of ‘A Great Recorded History’, an audio trail focusing on Cambridge’s LGBTQ past and its gay and lesbian writers like E.M. Forster and Ali Smith, and his first book WRONG: A Critical Biography of Dennis Cooper is about a writer once called ‘the last literary outlaw in mainstream American fiction’. Diarmuid is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in English at the University of Cambridge.

Noreen Masud
Romantic poets might extol the virtues of the mountainous Lake District, but is it right to think of fens, plains and moors as dull and empty landscapes?  Noreen Masud is working on a book about flat landscapes in twentieth century literature, and the feelings associated with flatness, looking at writers including D. H. Lawrence and Gertrude Stein.  The book is part of her broader work on literary texts, particularly poetry, which don’t behave as readers expect - which seem boring, embarrassing, nonsensical or perverse – but which might open doors to new kinds of writers and readers. Her first book was on aphorisms: short texts which, she argues, could help us manage disorderly feelings.  She is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Department of English at the University of Durham. 

Darragh McGee
How should we view gambling? Darragh McGee’s research, funded by the British Academy, traces our shifting cultural attitudes towards gambling from the 19th century onwards. This has led him to examine the role of social class in shaping the popularity of gambling historically, as well as investigating the way smartphone technologies are transforming young people’s relationship with online gambling today. It builds on Darragh’s doctoral research which focused on contemporary attitudes towards migration among young men in West Africa. He is a sociologist based in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Bath

Sophie Oliver
Sophie Oliver’s research explores the way women writers use fashion to say something about their lives and times, and how dress can be used to read literary texts and write literary history. At the moment she is developing an exhibition at the Poetry Library in London, ‘Poets in Vogue’, which will respond to women poets’ sense of style and their writing about clothes. She is also working on a history of feminist literary criticism. Sophie is a lecturer in modernism in the English department at the University of Liverpool. Her PhD was on writers including the novelist Jean Rhys, the subject of an exhibition she curated at the British Library. Before that she spent many years working in art publishing.   

Alexandra Reza
What can we learn from a gathering of writers at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1956? Alexandra Reza’s research shows how the anticolonial figures who attended that first Congress of Black Writers and Artists produced some of the most important literary and cultural work of the twentieth century. Her research focuses on the links between culture, politics and decolonisation by looking at writing, film and radio in French, Portuguese and English. She has looked at literary journals published by African writers in Paris and Lisbon, at modernism in Nigerian literature, and at film-making and theatre in Guinea, West Africa, in the 1960s, when politicians like Mandela, Guevara and Nrkumah came to the capital city, Conakry. Alexandra has a doctorate in Modern Languages and is currently a Junior Research Fellow in French at Trinity College, Oxford.

Tom Scott-Smith
Tom Scott-Smith’s first book, On an Empty Stomach: Two Hundred Years of Hunger Relief, examined the history of humanitarian nutritional technologies, high protein foods, and emergency rations. He is now writing a book on disaster shelter, studying seven attempts to provide emergency accommodation to refugees since 2015. This research is featured in the 2020 Imperial War Museum exhibition, Refugees. As a former aid worker, Tom is particularly interested in the paradoxes of aid, focusing on how humanitarians respond to basic human needs and negotiate political disputes. He is Associate Professor of Refugee Studies and Forced Migration at the University of Oxford, specialising in the ethnographic and historical study of humanitarian relief.

Lucy Weir
Lucy Weir's research centres on performance, gender, and mental health, ranging from German modern dance to Norway's black metal scene. She published her first book, Pina Bausch’s Dance Theatre, in 2018. She is particularly interested in the relationships between gender, sexuality, and the body, analysing the ways in which performance holds up a mirror to contemporary society. After completing her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at the University of Glasgow, Lucy taught at the Glasgow School of Art for several years, before taking up her current post at the University of Edinburgh.

Christine “Xine” Yao
Does reading help us with empathy and a better understanding of oppressed peoples? But what if those people refuse to express themselves in order to prove their humanity? Christine “Xine” Yao researches topics such as race science, feminist fashion, queer tarot, and anti-racist practices.  Her book-in-progress Disaffected: The Cultural Politics of Unfeeling in Nineteenth-Century America looks at relations between Black, Indigenous, and Asian peoples and takes a contrarian stance by validating unfeeling as a subversive way to question the way we judge literature by marginalized people and whether “sympathy” is useful or not.  Xine hails from the colonized land now known as Toronto and is currently a lecturer in early and 19th century American literature at University College London. She presents a podcast, PhDivas, co-hosted with a cancer scientist Dr Liz Wayne, which interviews women from across the STEM/humanities divide about their research and experiences of working in academia.

Return to news list