Earlham Institute action recognised at Technician Commitment signatory event

16 May 2024
Fiona Fraser accepting an award from Technician Commitment Lead Dame Kelly Vere

The Earlham Institute has received its first Technician Commitment award during a signatory event held in Cardiff on the 15th May.

Fiona Fraser, a Senior Research Assistant and the Earlham Institute’s Technician Commitment (TC) lead, made the journey to the Welsh capital to collect the award on behalf of the Institute and its thriving community of people working in technical roles.

The TC signatory event was an opportunity to meet and network with technicians from research institutes and universities all over the UK. Speakers included Abigail Phillips, the Welsh Government’s Head of Innovation, and Professor Wendy Larner, President and Vice-Chancellor at Cardiff University. 

There were sessions on technical specialist promotion pathways, developing new talent through T Level placements, and the TC collaboration fund.

The Technician Commitment was first launched in May 2017 and is a university and research institute initiative hosted by the UK Institute for Technical Skills and Strategy. 

TC signatories pledge to improve visibility, recognition, career development, and sustainability for the community of people working in technical roles within research environments.

The Earlham Institute became a signatory in November 2022. A year later, it submitted its Self-Assessment document and action plan

The action plan includes measures to encourage technicians to attend conferences, get involved in the grant-writing process, and ensure their valuable contributions are celebrated internally and online. 

The review panel congratulated the Institute on the “positive progress” evidenced in the submission, coupled with a “clear and ambitious action plan”.

Professor Neil Hall, Director of the Earlham Institute, said: “None of the ground-breaking work we do at the Institute could be done without the contributions of our technical staff. Their expertise is key to everything we do and all too often this expertise gets overlooked. 

“I’m delighted we now have an action plan in place to address this and ensure that our technical staff get the recognition, reward, and career support that they deserve. 

“I’d like to extend my thanks and congratulations to Fiona Fraser and the rest of the Technician Commitment team for the work they put into the submission and action plan. The award is well-deserved!”

The Self-Assessment submission and action plan were developed by Fiona Fraser and Helen Murdoch - the Institute’s former Athena Swan and Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity Coordinator - with input and support from the Institute’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equality, and Accessibility (IDEA) committee and a team of staff in technical roles.

Fiona said senior leaders at the Earlham Institute had also been welcoming and positive about the commitment.

“The senior management team have been really supportive and have made this a priority,” she said. “They’ve made sure we have everything we need from the Earlham Institute to make this work.”

Fiona also acknowledged the advice and feedback she received from Dr Clare Stevenson, the John Innes Centre’s Head of Directorate

Dr Stevenson is a former technician herself and was instrumental to the JIC being one of the Technician Commitment founding signatories in 2017. She is also the Science Council’s Associate Lead of the Technician Commitment.

The Earlham Institute’s collaboration with the The Sainsbury Laboratory and the John Innes Centre - who also received an award at the event - are seen as a key part to the future success of the action plan and this was something the review panel specifically commended.

“We are a small institute, in terms of number of people,” Fiona explains. “We don’t have the critical mass to achieve some of the things we want to achieve. If we work closely with other organisations on the Norwich Research Park, we can do more.”

To further opportunities for cross-institute collaboration and best practice sharing, the Earlham Institute also joined the Research Institutes Technician Group (RITG) in July 2023. 

This group represents technicians at research institutes and includes the Babraham Institute, Sanger Institute, John Innes Centre, Institute of Cancer Research and the Medical Research Council. 

The RITG hold a Technician Commitment Symposium biennially and the Earlham Institute will be involved in hosting the next symposium in the John Innes Conference Centre in Norwich on March 28th, 2024.

Notes to editors.

Above photo: Senior Research Assistant, Fiona Fraser (right) accepting the award from Technician Commitment Lead and Director of Technical Strategy at the University of Nottingham, Kelly Vere MBE. 

Credit: The UK Institute for Technical Skills and Strategy

Examples of Earlham Institute/John Innes Centre/The Sainsbury Laboratory technician-focussed collaborations include organising cross-institute seminars on professional registration and in October 2023 and running an “Accessible Science” conference, which was funded by a successful joint bid to the Technician Commitment Collaboration Fund. 

The Accessible Science conference was a day of talks from students, postdocs, research leaders, and technicians across the Norwich Research Park, delivered in a way that was accessible to a non-expert audience. 

Many talks were focussed on the non-typical career paths of the speakers and were very well received by the audience of staff, students, and young people from schools and colleges across East Anglia, the UK, and abroad.


About the Earlham Institute

The Earlham Institute is a hub of life science research, training, and innovation focused on understanding the natural world through the lens of genomics.

Embracing the full breadth of life on Earth, our scientists specialise in developing and testing the latest tools and approaches needed to decode living systems and make predictions about biology.

The Earlham Institute is based within the Norwich Research Park and is one of eight institutes that receive strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UKRI, as well as support from other research funders.

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