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Research technicians and technology and skills specialists

We recognise the need to support research technicians and technology and skills specialists in academia to maximise their research effectiveness and individual potential.

Research technicians and technology and skills specialists (herein collectively referred to as Research Technical Professionals, or RTP) have expert knowledge and technical competence in their field. They may include - but not limited to - data scientists, data engineers, archivists, informaticians, statisticians, software developers, audio-visual technologists, technical professional staff and individuals staffing core facilities, across all disciplines. See the UK Research and Innovation statement of expectations for technology/skills specialists (PDF).

BBSRC recognises the crucial role played by research technical professionals in:

  • providing core technical excellence to campuses, institutions, facilities, departments and teams to enable the delivery of research outputs and impact from research grants
  • operating and maintaining large and mid-range capital investments in instrumentation, and training other staff and students in their use
  • developing new technologies and methodologies.

Our commitment to research technical professionals

In 2013 a People and Skills Expert Working Group was established as a joint activity between the Bioscience Skills and Careers (BSC) and Exploiting New Ways of Working (ENWW) Strategy Advisory Panels, with the purpose to review careers and training needs in areas relevant to ENWW. The Group recommended BBSRC to consider the careers for researchers in research support, facility and technical roles.

In response, we ran a survey of technical staff in 2015 to gather evidence of the roles they perform, their career structures and opportunities for career and personal development. The key outputs were published in a short piece in Nature: Forge a clearer path for technical careers (PDF).

Building on this evidence base and further consultation with research technical professionals in workshops held in 2016, we established an Advisory Group in 2017 to shape an action plan.

The Advisory Group identified three areas of work in relation to:

  • identity
  • parity and inclusivity
  • evaluation.

Identity

Our aim is to clearly define the functions and characteristics of research technical professionals at all levels of seniority to clarify our terminology, guidance and policies to support their continuing professional development.

We will be guided by principles of working in partnership with the research technical professional community and other relevant stakeholders and facilitation to support the community to take ownership and organise around self-identified professional identities.

We will achieve this by:

  • establishing working relationships with relevant stakeholders representative of research technical professionals to understand and adopt terminology and references agreed by research technical professional communities
  • supporting good practice in institutional job descriptions and career development frameworks for research technical professionals.

Parity and inclusivity

Our aim is to recognise and champion the value of technical expertise to the UK research workforce and institutional research groups and teams to ensure it is held in parity of esteem with other expertise.

We will be guided by principles of inclusivity in organisational research cultures and BBSRC decision making structures, recognition of all contributions to research, and active engagement with key stakeholders.

We will achieve this by:

  • clarifying eligibility and costing of research technical professionals for grant funding
  • engaging with research technical professionals and relevant organisations for their input into BBSRC funding and decision making structures
  • recognising and rewarding individual, team and organisational contributions and achievements to research

Evaluation

We will evaluate progress towards these goals and take advantage of emerging opportunities to expand this work. In particular, we will commit to working with our UK Research and Innovation partners to develop a more holistic approach to supporting research technical professionals.

Resources for research technical professionals

Eligibility for funds

Research technical professionals are allowed to submit a grant proposal as a Principal Investigator (PI) or co-investigator (co-I) to BBSRC if they meet the following requirements:

  • Their appointment is resourced from the central funds of their institution at the time of application
  • They carry both a level of responsibility and range of duties appropriate to a person with substantial research experience for example they occupy a post equating to at least lecturer level
  • A confirmatory statement to this effect from the Head of Department is required together with a written assurance from the applicant’s institution that should the applicant be without a contract of employment extending beyond the period of the proposed grant at the time of application, such a contract will be put in place if the proposal is successful.

If the research technical professional made a substantial intellectual contribution to the project and will be engaged with the ensuing research but do not meet the above eligibility criteria, they should be named as Researcher Co-Investigator in the application.

If in any doubt please contact us via email (eligibility@bbsrc.ukri.org) for confirmation of eligibility prior to the submission of any application.

How to cost research technical professionals on grant applications

We recognise the importance of work conducted by research technical professionals. The salary of research technical professionals can be included on the grant proforma in two ways: either as Directly Incurred or Directly Allocated Costs. Please check our grants guide (see downloads) for more details. Applicants will not be penalised for justified costs.

Recognition

The Science Council and Gatsby Foundation Technician Commitment is being widely adopted across the sector to ensure visibility, recognition, career development and sustainability for this community. BBSRC supports this recognition of research technical professionals.

Research Technical Professional Working Group membership

Susan Anderson (Chair) - University of Nottingham
Laura Bellingan - Royal Society of Biology
Sarah Butcher - Imperial College London
Nick Goldman - EBI
Cassandra Hodgkinson - The University of Manchester
Kelly Vere - Science Council