Many of the examples above have been in response to the Technician Commitment – a sector wide initiative which launched in 2017.
For a number of years I’ve worked closely with the Gatsby Foundation – particularly on their Technicians Make it Happen campaign, which aims to shine a light on the many technical roles we have in the UK. Together, and through my role at the Science Council, we developed the idea of a sector commitment to technicians with four key pillars: visibility, recognition, career development and sustainability.
Two years on, the Technician Commitment now stands at 88 institutional signatories. We’ve developed a thriving and energetic community of Technician Commitment leads across the sector. Together, we’re enabling a better culture for technicians and ensuring their careers are developed, supported and respected.
Another example of progress is the development of new career routes. Unlike academic colleagues who have a well-defined career path, technicians can experience limited career options, even though they are skilled professionals with a wealth of expertise. At the University of Nottingham, and at least three other UK universities, career pathways have been created or are in development to ensure that technical colleagues can reach professorial equivalence. Crucially, technicians can reach this level either via a management or a specialist knowledge route.
Wellcome’s survey showed that only 29% of researchers feel secure pursuing a research career. I can see this – like postdoctoral researchers, many technicians are on fixed term contracts and much more could be done to improve stability. For example, many institutions don’t always cost technicians appropriately on grants. Funders know that they need technicians for research to be successful, and we know it’s possible to fund permanent roles backed up with research funding. We’re working with funders to improve this.