Last week I was privileged to be able to attend an event at the Royal Society for Technician Commitment signatory institutions. These events have been held twice a year since the Commitment was launched in 2017. It provides an opportunity for colleagues at institutions and partner organisations around the UK to come together to share news and best practice around the Technician Commitment.
Opening, Kelly Vere gave a short update with some recent highlights. The Institute of Physics recently held its annual awards, with technicians recognised in their own category for the first time. The Times Higher Education (THE) Awards also recently awarded their very first 'Outstanding Technician of the Year' award. This award, sponsored by the Technician Commitment, had the most nominations of any category in the THE Awards. There has been lots of activity on the Technician Commitment blog, and great news that for the second year, the Technician Commitment was partnering with the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures to offer two placements for technicians.
Dr Rupert Lewis, Director of Policy, gave an introduction and history of the Royal Society. He quoted Isaac Newton, a Fellow of the Royal Society, who expressing how he had achieved so much said, "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants". Rupert reflected that in his experience, the giants of the lab were technicians first, and your supervisor second!
The keynote for the day was given by Professor Rory Duncan, Director of Skills and Talent at UKRI. Working as a technician earlier in his career, Rory said he learned important technical skills and people skills in this role, needing to work and communicate with a wide range of people. UKRI oversee the main research funding sources in the UK and have committed to requiring funding recipients to consider the welfare and development of their whole workforce, not just academics. This has potential to drive really positive change for technicians.
The morning set of presentations were given by colleagues from the Sanger Institute, the University for the Creative Arts, and an update of the first Research Institutes Technician Symposium at the Francis Crick Institute. Some of the activities talked about highlighted the benefits of networking for technicians and collaboration with other institutions. Colleagues at UCA told us about the success of 'TechEx' (Technician Exhibition), showcasing the work of their arts technicians simultaneously across four campuses, which featured in the local paper, as well as resulting in some technicians taking their work to exhibitions elsewhere in the country.
Either side of lunch we discussed around our tables the activities taking place at our own institutions, and the impact of these, with lunch being a good opportunity for networking with other colleagues.
In the afternoon session, Paul Gilbert from the University of Liverpool presented a summary of the report 'Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: A Technician Lens.' The report makes a number of recommendations for the sector and institutions, and I was encouraged to see that through our own action plan, as well as through the Athena Swan initiative at the University we are already addressing some of these.
More presentations followed on the Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF) from UCL, and how the National Technician Development Centre (NTDC) has supported the Universities of Newcastle, Reading and York. A couple of interesting points stood out to me, which were the use of professional registration as an alternative to academic qualifications when recruiting, and incorporating actions from the Technician Commitment into technician SDPRs.
Following more group discussions, Kelly closed proceedings for the day. At an early evening reception, Helen Pain, Chair of the Technician Commitment Steering Board gave a speech and presented awards of submission to signatory institutions who submitted their self-assessments earlier in the year.
This was the third signatory event I've been to, and each time I've come away really motivated and with lots of ideas. The whole technical community is behind this and there is a great spirit of collaboration around the Technician Commitment. Everyone I've spoken to has been keen to share ideas and resources and it is so encouraging to see such positive change in such a short period of time.