Genevieve Waterhouse, PhD Investigative Forensic Psychology, POST placement
Genevieve has taken a three month break from her PhD studies to complete a placement at the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology
At LSBU, we’re always keen to see our students add to their research and their educational experience by undertaking related work placements that can help them put their studies into context, or help them gain practical insight into the research questions they are asking.
Genevieve is one such student. “My research focuses on the investigative interviewing of children, and in particular how police provide social support to children – such as building rapport in order to make them feel comfortable during the interview – and the practice of interviewing children more than once about the same event,” she says. “I’m in my fourth year, but I’ve taken some time out to work at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) for three months – an experience that is really helping me to put my research into the context of policy decisions.”
Genevieve’s role involves providing an impartial briefing to MPs and Peers about the evidence for different policing practices regarding domestic abuse. “It means I am reading a lot of literature to make sure I have a thorough knowledge,” she says, “but I’m also talking to interested key parties – charities like Women’s Aid, organisations such as the College of Policing, and academics. The briefing will look at how domestic abuse is currently policed and the criticisms of it. An internal evaluation conducted in 2014 showed problems with how police deal with domestic abuse - and the alternatives that are being piloted.“
Genevieve found out about the vacancy through a psychology mailing list she was a member of, and as soon as she expressed an interest she felt supported by her supervisors. “They were all behind me, and helped throughout the application process. They even ran a practice interview for me!” she says.
Insight into policy change
Her time working with POST looks set to help Genevieve both with her current research project and any future work she undertakes, as it has given her an insight into how to make positive changes to policy. “So far I’ve learnt a huge amount about how parliament works, and the way that science is incorporated into debate,” she says. “I’ve also become very aware of the direct and indirect impact of policy on practice and research, and the complications related to policy decisions. Additionally, as you would expect, I’ve become quite knowledgeable very quickly about how domestic abuse is policed and the techniques that are being evaluated to attempt to improve things.”
That understanding of the framework in which scientific research is debated before it can impact policy could be crucial, given Genevieve’s area of research. “Cognitive support provided to children in forensic interviews has been researched a lot, but social support less so,” she says. “Personally, I think social support is key as forensic interviews can be traumatic for children, and they sometimes feel re-victimised by the experience, so it’s incredibly important that we make these interviews as pleasant as possible for them. Multiple interviewing is currently discouraged by interviewing guidelines, but in the literature is shown to be an effective way of obtaining new, accurate information from children and so could be really helpful for investigations.”
As well as helping her understand what research is most effective for policy change and how important it is that the research does have an impact and how to create it, Genevieve has found her short-term role to be very rewarding. “I’m really enjoying the work and the people I work with are great – very interesting and friendly,” she says. “It’s also very exciting working in Parliament – being able to go in to the Houses of Parliament, seeing Jeremy Corbyn at lunchtime and even going on a tour up Big Ben (or Elizabeth Tower to give it its proper name.)”
I didn’t realise it when I applied, but the PhD has been fantastic for allowing me to get a lot of experience of academia that I didn’t expect to be involved; I’ve had a book chapter published, taught on both the undergraduate and MSc courses, and even been a module co-ordinator for the MSc in Investigative Forensic Psychology.