GROW Researcher Development Programme

In 2022 we initiated a pilot development programme for early career researchers in order to:

  • develop a network of researchers focused on children & young people’s mental health, who could support each other through the programme in 2022, and beyond the life of the Network.

  • support the professional development of researchers taking part so they could work towards and achieve professional goals they set themselves.

  • support participating researchers to develop the networks, skills, and experience needed to work successfully across sectors and disciplines to make a difference to children & young people’s mental health.
Members of the GROW Researcher Development Programme Pilot at the live workshop in London.

We held a competitive application process in autumn 2021, and received 35 applications from mental health early career  researchers from across the UK. 

Our assessment criteria included considering the extent to which applicants could bring an important or distinctive perspective to the programme cohort, and the extent to which they could benefit from the programme. 

We awarded 19 places to researchers working in a range of settings including the NHS, charity sector, and UK universities. 

The pilot programme ran from January to July 2022 and included:

  • four individual sessions with a professional coach

  • monthly online workshops on a range of topics including securing funding for research, establishing research collaborations, and involving children and families in research. These sessions included peer to peer discussions and presentations from senior colleagues and other experts. 

  • an in-person workshop with overnight stay in London. 

Programme Evaluation

“My confidence and knowledge have increased through being part of the programme. The whole experience has been extremely valuable. It has been great to meet different people, receive coaching, learning more about CYP MH research and share ideas. I also feel I have gained a supportive peer network through meeting regularly with other members of the programme and working together on projects.” GROW Participant

We wanted to understand the impact of the programme on our participants as individuals, and the extent to which the programme contributed to furthering the aims of the Emerging Minds Network. As this was a pilot programme, we were also interested in our participants’ experiences of the programme and how it could be improved for future cohorts.

We carried out an evaluation with our participants including surveys pre-programme, immediately after the programme, and a six-month follow up and had really encouraging results. 

Overall, the reflections of our pilot cohort strongly demonstrated the value of offering dedicated opportunities to support the professional development of mental health researchers early in their careers.

You can download and read the full evaluation of the Programme by using the button below.

Wider Impact

New Projects

In summer 2022 we held our final Emerging Minds funding call, offering “research development” seed funding to those who had been supported by the Network in some way. We were thrilled to receive applications from, and fund, four new projects all led by members of the GROW Programme. Several of these projects arose specifically out of connections made between participants during the Programme.

LGBTQ+ Youth Mental Health Research Showcase & Partnership Building

Collaboration building project led by Dr Hazel Marzetti, University of Edinburgh and Dr Catt Turney, The Kite Trust/Off the Record Bristol

Exploring the evidence of associations between physiological and psychological stress in the context of youth mental health

Research project led by Dr Ola Demkowicz, University of Manchester and Dr Hannah Jones, University of Bristol

Understanding the mental health needs of children and young people with social work involvement

Cross-sector placement led by Dr Eleanor Chatburn, University of East Anglia

Supporting working parents caring for adolescents with mental health difficulties

Research project led by Dr Jackie Parsonage-Harrison, Oxford Brookes University and Dr Faith Martin, Coventry University

Big Emerging Minds Summit

Members of the GROW cohort were also involved in leading six of the 24 workshops at our Big Emerging Minds Summit in October 2022 on a variety of topics including young people’s involvement in digital mental health, the implementation of evidence into practice, and LGBTQ+ youth mental health. The cohort also came together to lead the workshop ‘Meeting of the Minds: Imaging the future of children and young people’s mental health research’.

Continued Collaboration

With funding from Emerging Minds, the cohort also came together to host their own independent Away Day in October 2022. The agenda included:

  • Next steps for the group including how to maintain their network and provide space for continued peer collaboration and support.
  • Developing a position paper on growing capacity in mental health research, and other discussions on how to build research capacity.

Ongoing cohort activities include monthly online catch ups and writing retreats, plans for annual Away Days, knowledge-sharing via a shared Teams channel (for instance papers, funding calls, and conferences of interest), finalising their position paper, and considering a future book on early career researcher experiences of mental health research.

Next Steps

We were delighted to receive funding for two further early career researcher development cohorts in 2022 and 2023 from the National Institute of Health and Care Research (NIHR) mental health research initiative, via the NIHR School of Primary Care (SPCR).

These two cohorts were run under the umbrella of the Mental Health Research Incubator, one of a series of incubators established by the NIHR to build research capacity in priority areas. Led by Professor Cathy Creswell, it was created to increase capacity in mental health research.

The second GROW Programme had 77 applicants, and the third 107, with 17 and 20 researchers selected to take part respectively. These two further iterations of the programme particularly prioritised researchers from regions and professional backgrounds currently under-represented in mental health research. 

You can find out more about the Incubator GROW Programme via the Mental Health Research Incubator website