Just Four Films. BBC-Oxford social sciences join forces to turn four great ideas into fantastic new films


Seven months ago, Social Sciences Division put out a call to its academics: would you like to make a short film based on your research, in collaboration with BBC Ideas? Who wouldn’t?

Six weeks later, not surprisingly, some 80 amazing ideas for filming were delivered, covering the full range of the division’s research. And somehow the BBC and the division had to whittle those down to just four ideas, which could be distilled into five-minute films or animations, explaining the research and being entertaining for an under 35s audience.

BBC Ideas

It was an extremely tough call. According to Bethan Jinkinson, the BBC Ideas Executive editor behind the films, ‘We’ve never done anything quite like this before. It was wonderful to hear from so many different academics about so many amazing ideas and such a wide range of projects. The standard was very high.’

She explained how BBC Ideas works, ‘These are short films aimed at an under 35s audience…they need academic rigour, insight and facts but also need to be effortlessly entertaining.’

 The four projects chosen were:

Why do some children beat the odds? a captivating film based on the Young Lives project’s idea about how children in some of the poorest countries on Earth have beaten the odds to improve their lives.

How the humble bean can help the world, a clever, entertaining animation based on an idea from TABLE, the future of food platform, about how the humble bean is the answer to everything…and not.

Five things you probably didn’t know about periods, an amazing and incredibly interesting film, led by doctoral candidate Gabriella Kountourides based on her research on menstruation.

How to keep cool (without heating the planet). As the world warms and heatwaves become more frequent, we turn up the Air Conditioning. But that contributes to climate change. This fascinating animation looks at the air-con conundrum. 

Bethan explained, ‘Turning what are quite intellectually demanding concepts into five minutes of film, that a wide audience will enjoy, is often a challenge.’

But she added, ‘It was great to work with a new partner, and exciting to be working on social science topics.

‘These films showcase the variety of connections to the real world in social sciences.

‘It’s been privilege to work with the academics and to discover new ideas and fresh perspectives.’

BBC Ideas was launched in 2018 and has published over 750 short films. They are available on numerous channels, from the BBC Ideas website (bbc.co.uk) as well as YouTube and Twitter. Films are promoted on the BBC News website and Homepage, as well as the main BBC Facebook, Instagram and Tik Tok accounts.

One of the most popular BBC Ideas films on YouTube is about being an introvert in an extrovert world, and has had over 5.7 million views. Another very popular film on YouTube is about the man who invented algorithms – with over two million views.

Bethan concluded, ‘We are really pleased with the final films. The animators and production companies we’ve worked with have done a brilliant job, they are so creative and brilliant. We’re really excited to share them with the audience.’