EARC Technicians’ Network: Notes from the launch event

18 July 2023

Over 40 technicians from across the three universities of UEA, Essex and Kent took part in the launch of the Technicians’ Network  on 7 July at the University of Essex. It was an opportunity to discuss the issues they face, and to work together to develop solutions to them.

The session was opened by Prof Edd Codling, the Faculty Dean of Research at the Essex. A strong advocate for technicians, he leads on the Technician Commitment for the University, and made clear how essential they were to both the teaching and research being undertaken at all three universities.

This was echoed by Phil Ward, Director of Eastern Arc. ‘Research and teaching, particularly in the sciences, cannot happen in many disciplines without technicians,’ he said. ‘Having a strong and active voice for them is essential, and the new Network will be just that.’

In the morning the Network discussed how to build a collaboration, and what it hoped to achieve. Participants talked about the challenges they faced, and how a collective voice could overcome these.

These issues were explored further by Catrin Harris, TALENT Research Fellow, who had undertaken a project to look at these issues.

‘Many people don’t realise how many responsibilities and jobs technicians have,’ she said. ‘From preparation to training, from programme and people management to data alaysis, maintenance and sustainability, technicians are involved and leading every step of the way.’

Some of the roles and responsibilities of technicians

However, only 30% of technicians feel included in the research culture, and only 37% feel valued by it. 63% of technicians and 52% of non-technical staff and students believe that technicians aren’t appropriately credited for their contribution to research.

Survey results on the perception of appropriate credit for technicians

She further explored these perceptions, and the issues underlying them, before summarising the recommendations from her work.

Recommendations from Catlin Harris’ research

After lunch some of the technicians had the opportunity to tour the University’s facilities, whilst others heard about Jo Scamp’s (Kent) experience of working with the Science Museum’s Gallery Archives programme for encouraging and developing future technicians to enter the profession.

The event ended by looking forward, and thinking about positive next steps. It was agreed to hold an annual symposium, as well as establishing an online forum for sharing insights and asking questions, as well as the opportunity to shadow and take part in exchanges between the universities.

If you are a technician at an Eastern Arc university, contact the TN Steering Group leaders (Matthew Bennett (UEA), Chris Spice (Essex) and Jo Scamp (Kent)) if you want to join the mailing list or actively become involved in organising future events.


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