Sadie Watson looks down on an archaeological site (c) MOLA

MOLA archaeologist, Sadie Watson, awarded UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship

Sadie Watson

Today, the next generation of research innovators were announced by UK Research and Innovation. Amongst the 78 Future Leaders Fellows is MOLA archaeologist, Sadie Watson. Sadie is one of only a handful of Fellows not from a University and one of only two Fellows in this round to have a research-focus on archaeology. In this blog she tells us a bit about her Fellowship…

I am hugely honoured and excited to have been selected as a Future Leaders Fellow by UKRI. I join researchers from a range of multi-disciplinary fields receiving funding from the UK Government to tackle global challenges and ensure the UK maintains its status at the forefront of cutting-edge research.

My four-year Fellowship ‘Measuring, maximising and transforming public benefit from UK Government infrastructure investment in archaeology’ focuses on ensuring that public spending on archaeology for infrastructure projects leads to meaningful and relevant research and genuine community participation.

Most archaeological work in the UK is a result of development, with the total spend on archaeology by publicly-funded infrastructure projects, such as roads and railways, reaching many millions. However, as of yet, there is no established way to assess the social impact derived from this considerable investment. The outcomes of my Fellowship will include best-practice guidance and a tool-kit that will be used to inform future policy and practice.

UKRI Future Leadership Fellow Sadie Watson

My research will take place within the framework of professional archaeology, with project partners including Historic England, the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists and the Europae Archaeologiae Consilium. The inclusion of HS2 Ltd as project partner will help to embed the new guidance into the commercial sector; prime movers in the introduction of new behavioural expectations.

I hope this research will establish my professional standing as leader in methodological developments in the archaeology profession. It is also an amazing opportunity for MOLA to grow the research culture of our organisation.

I’m proud to be one of only two archaeologists to have received funding in this round and to be included in a line-up of exceptional Fellows undertaking innovative and significant research projects, including:

  • Joe Rainger, University of Edinburgh – Working with DNA, live cell-imaging, and developing eye tissue, Joe’s project will provide insights into how we can reduce genetic birth defects - including cleft palate, spina bifida, and heart defects.
  • Adrian Healy, Cardiff University – Adrian’s research will improve global cities’ ability to cope with water-related shocks in the face of increasing demands for water, including droughts and a lack of access to clean water.
  • Bob C. Schroeder, University College London – This project will drive advances in self-healing materials - creating a wearable sensor that can be directly applied to human skin to allow for continuous patient monitoring and ultimately improve treatments.
  • Patricia Clay, University of Manchester – By examining meteorites and ancient rocks from our planet, this project will explore the age-old existential question: how did life form on early Earth?

I look forward to getting stuck into the project and sharing my progress as it develops.

For more information on the UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship scheme please visit

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