BBC New Generation Thinkers 2013

This week the BBC and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) have announced the ten New Generation Thinkers for 2013, and I’m delighted to be one of them. The aim of the New Generation Thinkers scheme is to give academics in the humanities and at the start of their careers the opportunity to discuss their research on the BBC, particularly on Radio 3, and to disseminate their ideas to a wider audience. This is a fantastic opportunity for me to talk about my research, and I’m looking forward to making the most of it.

There were several reasons why I applied to the scheme. First, I love working on my research, which focuses on the links between literature, science, and psychology in the nineteenth century. I love it both because I find the subject matter and the process of research intrinsically interesting, and because I think that studying the ideas of the nineteenth century can help to inform current understandings of literature, science, and the human mind. I enjoy sharing my research through my writing and through my teaching, and this opportunity to share my enthusiasm with a new audience was too good to miss.

This leads on to my second reason for applying: the chance to let a bigger audience know about the work I’m doing. Within the humanities at the moment there are so many lively and important debates going on: about the social and cultural value of literary, philosophical, and historical studies; about the relationship between the humanities and science and technology; about the ways in which the humanities can help us to understand the pressing issues of the twenty-first century (terrorism and war, climate change, the ageing of the population). Every day my colleagues and students give me new perspectives on these debates, but humanities researchers are, I think, sometimes not as good as scientists at letting the public know about the fascinating work they’re doing. The New Generation Thinkers scheme represents an excellent opportunity to rectify this.

Finally, I was excited by the challenge of finding new and imaginative formats for conveying humanities research. I have no experience of being on the radio, so the thought of working in a studio for the first time is a little unnerving, but I’m looking forward to working out how best to disseminate my research in entertaining and informative ways. I and the other New Generation Thinkers have already had a little practice of this during the application process. This involved writing and delivering a (very short) pitch for a radio programme based on our research, a task which required us to be concise, thoughtful, and engaging at the same time, and to convey complex ideas in clear language: useful preparation, I hope, for the real thing.

BBC audiences will first hear this year’s New Generation Thinkers in early June, when we’ll all be introducing our research on Radio 3’s Night Waves programme. We’ll also all be appearing at Radio 3’s Free Thinking Festival at The Sage Gateshead (25-27 October). I’m grateful to the BBC and the AHRC for giving me these exciting opportunities, and I can’t wait to get started.

You can follow Gregory Tate on Twitter @drgregorytate.