Student & ECR Spotlight – meet Shelby Carr, a PhD researcher aiming to advance physical activity policy and science for people with disability

Please tell us about your career pathway to date (positions and institutes).

I graduated from Canterbury Christ Church University, UK with a BSc Psychology (Sport and Exercise) in 2016 and then went on to complete an MSc Sport and Exercise Psychology degree at Sheffield Hallam University, UK. Following the completion of my degrees, I worked at a local Active Sports Partnership for just over a year, supporting the delivery of a community-based physical activity intervention specifically targeted at people with long-term health conditions. I was also involved in identifying physical activity opportunities in our area for people with disability. During my time there my passion for research grew and at the end of 2018 I moved to the University of East Anglia as a Research Associate in Public Health Evaluation. This role has involved monitoring and evaluating real-world interventions within the UK, which has included evaluating projects on mental wellbeing, as well as physical activity. With a key interest in physical activity and research, in October 2020 I began a PhD at the University of East Anglia.

How would you briefly describe your current research/job to someone who is not familiar with your field of study/work? What is your main research interest?

The focus of my PhD is advancing physical activity research and policy targeting people with disability. Physical activity guidelines for people with disability are relatively new and available in only a limited number of countries. They are also based on a small volume of evidence and use varied definitions and classifications of disability. With this in mind, my research aims to further understanding of the links between physical activity and health for people with disability, with the aim of informing future physical activity guidelines for this population.

What are the main barriers you encounter/experience when conducting research, or what information/skills do you lack to conduct high quality research?

One of the main barriers I have experienced with conducting research thus far has been time. In particular, when working on multiple projects at one time and funding only covering the time that the project is delivered for, quite often there is limited time at the end of the project to write a report for the organisation, as well as producing a publishable research paper, before moving onto the next. This PhD will allow me the opportunity to improve my publishing skills, as well as my ability to analyse large quantitative datasets.

What could help you as a student/ECR to further develop/grow in your current position?

I am really keen to network with other researchers, policy developers, and stakeholders who are interested in physical activity research targeting people with disability. With conferences put on hold this year, or going virtual, it is more important now than ever, to reach out to others in the field to hear about their research and let them know about mine. 

What do you think will be the next most important development in the nutrition and/or physical activity field? 

I might be slightly biased here, but personally I feel the next important development in the physical activity field has to be improving our understanding and awareness of how we can better support and advise people with disability to be more active. With research stating that people with disability are twice as likely to be inactive compared to people without, there is a need for physical activity research to focus more on people with disability in order to reduce inequalities in research, policy and practice.

You can get in touch with Shelby via [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @Shelby__Carr