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The University of Southampton

Dr Matt Ryan

Future Leaders Fellow

Dr Matt Ryan's Photo

The University of Southampton’s leading work on democratic theory, innovation and participation in politics, plus its plethora of expertise, has kept Dr Matt Ryan at the University for 12 years. His Future Leaders Fellowship provides the boost to take his work to the next stage.

More widely I have worked with colleagues in every Faculty. In particular my work with computer scientists through the Web Science Institute opened doors and stimulated a lot of the ideas for my fellowship. I am a big believer that universities should take a very active role in the society and environment surrounding them, so I have done a lot of work with local government and local organisations as well as those at national and international level, and the University provides good opportunities to connect with different groups if you seek those opportunities out.”

Dr Ryan, Associate Professor in Governance and Public Policy, was awarded a prestigious Future Leaders Fellowship from UKRI in 2019 for his project entitled Rebooting Democracy.

The four-year project fuses politics with machine learning to address polarisation and disengagement with politics. Combining data from traditional surveys, crowdsourcing, and social media, he is creating an early-warning system to tell governments and citizens what people are talking about and what issues to consult on before it is too late.

It was the reputation of Southampton’s Politics department that drew Dr Ryan to the University back in 2008. “The Politics department has a reputation for leading work on democratic theory and practice, reform, innovation, and participation in politics,” he said.

Dr Ryan and colleagues have recently launched an interdisciplinary Centre for Democratic Futures to act as a hub for research on democracy.

He continued: “My department is known for having a strong theory group with particular focus on democratic theory. The School of Economic, Social and Political Sciences is a leader in social science research methods. So, I have access to a plethora of expertise, and I have also benefitted from mentorship across the school.

His fellowship has provided a great career boost. He concluded: “Both the University and UKRI are doing a very good job of investing in fellows so I have had the pleasure to be exposed to some seriously impressive people and grow networks with fellows, applicants, and other colleagues across the University. My profile has also been enhanced, which has led to more invitations to do various things.”

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