Clinical-academics are well established and expanding in English health settings. However, despite growing evidence that research-active organisations improve service quality and outputs, research by social work practitioners remains relatively rare in social work practice in England other than as part of qualifying or post-qualifying study. In this context, the National Institute for Health and Care Research developed new funding streams to support the development of ‘practitioner–academics’, as an equivalent to clinical-academics in health settings. As early career practitioner–academics, who undertake research whilst remaining employed in our social work organisations, we present a case for practitioner–academic research, via two small research projects within our teams based on creative methods and focus groups. These projects illustrate the benefits of practitioner–academics in the knowledge production process, improving access to hard-to-reach research areas, developing swift rapport, which facilitates the production of rich and reliable data, and providing a novel means to navigate ethical issues including researcher positionality and research sensitivity. We also highlight challenges around informed consent, employee roles and researcher bias, including where practitioners are critical of practice within their service areas or are exposed to criticism themselves.