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University of Stirling


Stirling researcher is one of the New Thinkers on the BBC

A research fellow at the University of Stirling is one of 10 academics named as this year’s “New Generation Thinkers” by BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Council (AHRC).

Dr Tom Charlton was selected after a nationwide search by the partners to find the “academic broadcasters of the future” - the brightest minds who have the potential to turn ground-breaking ideas into fascinating programmes. As one of the winners, he will get the chance to get work with TV and radio staff to promote his research on air.

Dr Charlton and nine other winners will spend a year working with Radio 3 presenters and producers to develop their research and ideas into broadcasts. They will make their debut appearance on Radio 3's arts and ideas programme, “Free Thinking”, and will be invited to make regular contributions to the network throughout the year.

They will deliver talks at Radio 3's annual Free Thinking Festival of Ideas at Sage, Gateshead in November 2014The academics will also have an opportunity to develop their ideas for television, including working with BBC Arts to make short taster films to be shown on BBC Arts Online

Dr Charlton’s research specialises in the relationship between literature, religion and politics in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. He is currently editing the autobiography of the Presbyterian minister, Richard Baxter - a central figure in the decades of religious tumult that followed the English civil wars.

He said: “A key aim for many academics – in any field – is to share their research with the widest possible audience: I am delighted to have the opportunity to do this through the ‘New Generation Thinkers scheme’.

“In a climate in which the value of the humanities within higher education is repeatedly being called into question, this is an ideal forum for us to explain what we do, and show why it is important.

“One of the most beguiling figures in my own research is John Twyn, a printer who was executed in 1664 for publishing a pamphlet justifying people’s right to rebellion. His story is a heady mix of penurious tradesman, political dissent, crackdown by an authoritative regime, and arguments over how best to license – and censor – a press that many feared was becoming too powerful and irresponsible. It couldn’t be more relevant now.”

The New Generation Thinkers scheme received hundreds of applications from academics who are at the start of their careers and are passionate about communicating modern scholarship to a wider audience.

Following a six-month selection process, the winners were chosenfrom a group of 60 finalists, who attended a series of day-long workshops at the BBC's bases in Salford and London. The 10 were chosen by a judging panel made up of producers from Radio 3 and BBC Television Arts and academics from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Matthew Dodd, Head of Speech programming, BBC Radio 3, said: "Selecting this year’s New Generation Thinkers has been a stimulating experience. The huge range of dynamic researchers who aspire to bring their work to a broadcast audience made the choice of our final ten a very tough series of decisions. Nurturing new talent across the arts is a key part of Radio 3 and Hay Festival is a fitting place to announce this year's participants. We’re confident that the New Generation Thinkers 2014 will introduce listeners to charismatic new voices and compelling stories from contemporary research." ”

Professor Rick Rylance, Chief Executive Arts and Humanities Research Council, said: “Once again we are delighted with the success of this year’s scheme. As ever, the work presented by this year’s winners allows us to celebrate the value of arts and humanities research in our everyday lives. I look forward to hearing their programmes with enthusiasm. I'm also delighted that, as the AHRC continues to work with the BBC, two other research councils — Economic and Social Research Council and Medical Research Council — have joined us this year to cover an even broader range of projects.” 

In addition to Dr Tom Charlton, the other New Generation Thinkers 2014 are:

  • Will Abberley, University of Oxford: Will Abberley currently explores how ‘natural deception’ complicated scientific facts for Alfred Russel Wallace and his contemporaries.
  • Alasdair Cochrane, University of Sheffield:  Alasdair Cochrane’s research is an analysis of animal rights and how international politics might take animals into consideration when producing new policies.
  • Joanna Cohen, Queen Mary, London: Joanna Cohen is researching how Americans turned consumerism into an act of good citizenship between 1781 and 1865.
  • Sophie Coulombeau, University of York: Sophie Coulombeau’s current research is on personal naming and identity in England in the late 18th century.
  • Daisy Hay, University of Exeter: Daisy Hay is writing a biography of Benjamin and Mary Anne Disraeli and her current research focuses on Disraeli as one of the last Romantics.
  • Naomi Paxton, University of Manchester: Naomi Paxton is exploring the Suffrage campaign and the Actresses’ Franchise League
  • Preti Taneja, Jesus College, of the University of Cambridge: Preti’s current research is on rewriting Shakespeare for the 21st century.
  • Tiffany Watt-Smith, Queen Mary, University of London: Tiffany Watt-Smith’s research is on the cultural history of our compulsion to imitate each other’s expressions and gestures.
  • Alun Withey, University of Exeter: Alun Withey is researching The Medical World of Early Modern England 1500-1715 including, The Cultural History of the Beard.

This year, the New Generation Thinkers have been announced at the Hay Festival. The BBC has a 3 year partnership with Hay Festival, there will be unprecedented BBC coverage on TV, radio and online, making the festival more accessible than ever before.