Massive pieces of research infrastructure—such as the particle smashers of Europe’s physics lab Cern—produce enormous discoveries and come with a price tag to match. They are glamorous subjects for travel-happy politicians and journalists. But smaller, or less tangible infrastructures also help Europe’s researchers produce ground-breaking results.
For those who work in all such facilities, there may be excitement and glory in being part of an important endeavour much bigger than oneself, but individual contributions can be easily overlooked and the people who design, build, run and upgrade infrastructures, rather than leading the research projects that rely on them, rarely get the recognition they deserve. They are often off the well-worn career paths of university researchers, and suffer from problems progressing through pay grades and limited skills development.
Recognising this, the Swedish Research Council, Vetenskapsrådet, made skills development and career paths the focus of one of ten recommendations for research infrastructures that it published last month.