We were delighted to receive an award this month for our work on the Technicians Commitment. We asked Dr Clare Stevenson what happened?
What is the Technicians Commitment?
The Technician Commitment is a university and research institution initiative, which aims to ensure visibility, recognition, career development and sustainability for technicians working in higher education and research, across all disciplines.
The commitment receives support from the Science Council and the Gatsby Charitable Foundation’s Technicians ‘Make It Happen’ campaign.
What is a ‘technician’ and what is their role within science?
Technicians are a highly skilled group of people and are often a hidden workforce. For example, on every grant application or publication there are many additional people contributing to the work that remain invisible
At the John Innes Centre we call them ‘Research and Support Staff’ and they contribute greatly to the success of the institute across all areas of science. The technicians here at the John Innes Centre work in areas such as Horticulture, providing lab support, project management and administrators, research assistants and on our scientific technology platforms.
The work that all staff do (whatever the job title) should be acknowledged and at the John Innes Centre we try and celebrate everyone’s successes and everyone’s contributions.
Why did the John Innes Centre get involved in the Technicians Commitment?
Prior to the Technician Commitment we were already working hard to raise the profile of our Research Support Staff, so getting involved in the Technicians Commitment was a natural step and we were keen to sign the commitment as founding signatories, when it was launched back in May 2017.
Signing the commitment meant that we were officially pledging to ensure the visibility, recognition, career development and sustainability of technicians at the John Innes Centre.
To ensure we continue to live up to this commitment, we recently evaluated what we were doing to recognise the role of technicians and in June we submitted our self-assessment. We found that at the John Innes Centre we already had a lot of things in place that were embedded in the culture of the institute but there are always areas for improvement. We have highlighted a number of additional things in our action plan that we would like to work on over the next two years. How we perform against the commitment will be re-evaluated in 2020.
One year on, what is happening now?
Earlier this month, I was delighted to attend the Technician Commitment Signatory event at the Tower of London.
During the day there was a wide selection of talks about both the commitment and how other Universities and Institutes are meeting it. It was inspirational to hear what other people were doing and be able to talk to people responsible for implementing the commitment at other Universities and Institutions. Having the opportunity to share ideas on how to keep the momentum going, career pathways for technical staff and reward and recognition strategies was very useful.
In the evening there was a reception to launch the publication the ‘Technician Commitment – 1 year on’. I felt honoured to be able to attend to represent the John Innes Centre and collect an award we received for the successful submission of our self-assessment and action plan. Some of the things we intend to work on include;
1 – Giving all staff a profile on our website and linking that to the work they do
2 – Improving our Career pathways for all staff
3 – Undertaking Beacon Activity with other Universities and Institutes
4 – Producing a Technician Commitment leaflet to highlight the good practices and show the things we are working on
What will we do next?
The work to recognise the contributions of our Research and Support Staff is never complete and we need to continue the good work we are doing and start to work on areas identified in the action plan.
Additionally, we are part of a collaboration with the University of Liverpool and Nottingham and we recently spoke at a conference in Liverpool about synergies between Athena Swan and the Technician Commitment and diversity in this group of staff.
We are also setting up a collaboration with the Medical Research Council and potentially other institutes to share best practice amongst institutes.
I also want to raise the profile of the Technician Commitment within the John Innes Centre and engage more with all groups of staff here to ensure we are doing the very best we can.