Case study: Your Path in Research, Rachel Murphy, Social Worker
Rachel started her Pre-Doctoral Local Authority Fellowship in September 2021, funded through the NIHR and completed it in August 2022.
To celebrate the Your Path in Research Campaign, we spoke to Rachel Murphy, Social Worker who completed a Post-Graduate Certificate in Researching Social Care through the University of Central Lancashire and now works within North Yorkshire County Council. Rachel started her Pre-Doctoral Local Authority Fellowship in September 2021, funded through the NIHR and completed it in August 2022. Rachel was supervised through her Fellowship by Professor Aidan Worsley, see video of Aidan talking about his research journey here.
“I have always been keen to learn and to develop. I completed a criminology degree before qualifying in social work, and my career path has encompassed both of these areas of interest. My curiosity around criminality led me to complete my social work dissertation on exploring the treatment and interventions for child sexual offenders, and the subsequent impact on community safety. An unexpected discovery for me, from this research, was that there are people living in communities who are safely managing their attraction to children – they are not offending, not within the criminal justice system, and not being researched – yet would be such a valuable source of learning. This left me keen to investigate further, but as my training ended, I felt that the opportunity had passed and I embarked on my career in mental health social work. I loved the busy environment of the community mental health team, with each day bringing new challenges, and with multi-agency staff working together to support people on their journeys towards recovery.”
“I progressed to become the Team Manager and then the Service Manager for my region within North Yorkshire. I felt very fortunate to have progressed in my career, yet also felt more distant from the aspects of learning and practice that I had previously enjoyed so much. Hence my excitement when I saw an opportunity advertised for Local Authority staff to undertake a pre-doctoral research fellowship through the NIHR. It was an opportunity for 12 months of post-graduate research studies, professional leadership development, to pursue a research topic of interest, and to develop as a research practitioner – bridging the gap between academic research and social work practice, perfect!”
“I was supported by my employers to apply, and was successful. I embarked on a year of personal and professional growth, completing a Post-Graduate Certificate in Researching Social Care through the University of Central Lancashire, making research connections globally, completing management and leadership training, and even completing a small-scale research study. My research focus is on further understanding the experiences of those who are sexually attracted to children, but are not acting on their attraction. I am particularly interested in understanding the mental health needs of people with this attraction, and how mental health services can help in reducing risk and improving outcomes. I intend to continue this line of research through doctoral studies in the future.”
“Upon my return to work from the pre-doctoral fellowship, I moved into a temporary Research Development role within the Local Authority, which involves working with universities and communities collaboratively, and driving forward the research agenda within the Council. I feel excited for the future and look forward to generating more interest in practitioner research among colleagues, and seeing the benefits of this within the Local Authority.”
If you’re interested in discovering ways to begin your path in research have a look at the information below.
If you work in social care or social work:
- find free events, webinars and join a community of researchers by visiting the School for Social Care Research website
- learn more about what social care research looks like in social care themed reviews, where you can access research findings expressed in plain English
- join a supportive community of individuals and organisations in adult social care with an interest in research by signing up to the Social Care Incubator mailing list
- visit our social care research homepage and learn more
If you work in public health:
- join a growing community of public health researchers at the School for Public Health Research which offers training and events. Get regular updates about available support by signing up for to School's newsletter
- find out what Public Health research looks like in our Public Health Themed Reviews where you can access research findings expressed in plain English
- visit our public health specialty page and learn more
Internships, fellowships and opportunities:
- browse the available internships and opportunities at NIHR Applied Research Collaborations in your area
- explore the NIHR Academy Local Authority Academic Fellowship Programme which offers short-term placements for individuals that work in local authorities