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Willets launches technicians’ register

The Science Council will pilot two UK-wide professional registers for scientific support staff next year.

The Registered Science Technician (RSciTech) and Registered Scientist (RSci) schemes are aimed at technicians and scientists without a postgraduate qualification, who are working in a science-support function. The Science Council and eight professional science bodies including the Association for Science Education and the Royal Society of Chemistry are developing the registers.

The aim, says science minister David Willets, is to raise the profile of technicians and science-support staff and to formalise the types of qualifications and character attributes required for the roles. The registers are also intended to support the continued development of professional skills.

“Technicians play an invaluable role both in laboratories and wider industry,” the minister said when delivering the annual Gareth Roberts Science Policy Lecture in London on 19 October. “These professional registers will ensure their expertise is properly recognised by employers and the scientific community. They will raise the profile of technicians to businesses and research institutions, and provide those working at this level with a springboard towards further qualifications and professional development,” he said.

The registers were first mooted last year by the Science Council, an umbrella organisation of professional science bodies and learned societies. The council commissioned CFE, an education and skills consultancy firm, to conduct research into how technicians and their employers feel about such registers. The research, carried out between January and April this year, focused on employers in core science industries.

Almost half the employers consulted said they didn’t value professional accreditations or memberships. The research also suggested that characterising what technicians do was difficult because of the diversity of the work. For their part, employees raised concerns about the potential costs associated with accreditation and whether it would bring real benefits.

But Ali Orr, a deputy registrar at the Science Council, told Research Fortnight that these are the sorts of issues that will be resolved through the course of the 12-month pilot. “We are hoping that these issues will be ironed out over the course of next year,” he said.