Big ideas from BBC Radio 3/AHRC New Generation Thinkers

Scholarly talent search winners for 2013 to bring insights to the nation

June 6, 2013

Source: Alamy

To the point: links can be seen between Eastern religion and Western psychiatry

From the Wars of the Roses to “the war of the wombs” and from Victorian sexuality to the influence of Greek philosophy on cognitive behavioural therapy, the third crop of BBC Radio 3/Arts and Humanities Research Council New Generation Thinkers are pushing back the frontiers of knowledge in many exciting areas - and taking the results out to the wider public.

The scheme offers 10 winners the chance to develop their own programmes for BBC Radio 3 and to appear regularly on air.

One of the winners, Sarah Dillon, senior lecturer in contemporary literature at the University of St Andrews, is co-investigator on an interdisciplinary research project, What Scientists Read, which explores the different ways in which fiction can enhance scientists’ work.

Some of the scientists report that reading novels has helped them to write better research papers or made them more sympathetic to social issues and qualitative methods, while others have found inspiration in fictional scientists and even ideas for experiments in science fiction.

Christopher Harding, lecturer in Asian history at the University of Edinburgh, began his academic career with a doctorate looking at the conversion of Indian “untouchables” to Christianity. He has moved on to examining the links between religion and “the psy disciplines” in India and Japan, and the ways that meditation and concepts such as “mindfulness” are being brought into Western psychiatry.

“I would like to find a wider audience for what I do and not just ‘perform the academia’ for fellow scholars,” he said. “General audiences tend to ask less stylised and more urgent questions than you get at conferences.”

Rebecca Steinfeld, visiting lecturer and teaching fellow in the department of political science and international studies at the University of Birmingham, is researching the politics of reproduction in Israel. Her work looks at the extent to which attitudes to contraception and IVF are designed to boost Jewish fertility, and to “make up the numbers” lost in the Holocaust or to fulfil a divine imperative to “be fruitful and multiply”.

These are just three of the 10 New Generation Thinkers 2013, selected from hundreds of applicants at any stage in their early careers from working on a PhD to having completed one within the past eight years.

The winners were chosen in a series of BBC workshops in Salford and London. All will give short presentations of their work on successive editions of Radio 3’s Night Waves starting on 3 June and take part in the channel’s annual Free Thinking Festival of Ideas in October 2013.

They will also get a chance to develop their ideas for television and to make short taster films with BBC Television Arts.

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