Academy of Medical Sciences team science background

The Academy of Medical Sciences launches team science follow-up report

The Academy of Medical Sciences have launched a new report, From innovation to implementation: team science two years on which includes recommendations for employers about career pathways for skills specialists and technicians.

This follows on from an initial report in 2016 which highlighted the importance of team science, defined as “output-focused research involving two or more research groups – to address increasingly complex and multifaceted research challenges”.

Below is an extract from the new report (page 15).

Recommendations from the team science report aimed at employers:

Recommendation 9
Focused and appropriate training in team skills should be provided.

Recommendation 10
Clear career paths and development opportunities should be provided for researchers outside of the ‘PI track’ who play key roles in (and provide key competencies to) team science, such as skills specialists.

Progress & opportunities
Participants agreed that the overall adoption and implementation of practises in support of team science from employers could be significantly improved. Reliance on authorship of publications as a metric for promotion and reward is no longer fit for purpose, and the development and implementation of alternative metrics is needed. In addition to metrics, parity of esteem is necessary in career structures between technical and traditional academic career pathways. Despite this, there have been some excellent examples of change, which could be mirrored across the sector.

To circumvent this issue, the University of Glasgow has developed parallel career tracks for traditional researchers and technical staff (Case study 4). Technical roles currently reach a level comparable to that of a senior lecturer and there is an ambition to extend this to the level of professor, as depicted in Figure 2. This system offers a mechanism to reward and attribute credit to leading technical experts, recognising the valuable role of skills specialists with the aim to encourage uptake of these careers.

The report was launched with a news article, Now is the time for a team-based approach to team science, by Professor Anne Ridley FRS FMedSci.

“Skills/technical specialists are key components of research teams but are rarely offered a structured career path comparable to the ‘PI’ track. This means that talented skills specialists are regularly drawn to other sectors such as industry where appropriate career structures are established (frequently gaining a higher salary too!). Here, academia must learn from the way industry develops career structures and offers incentive schemes.

Some employers have already taken heed of this advice, developing parallel career frameworks for skills specialists and those on the PI track alike. If rolled-out nationwide, this would dramatically transform technical careers.”

Professor Anne Ridley FRS FMedSci

Kelly Vere, Higher Education Engagement Manager & Technician Commitment Lead at the Science Council said:

“We are delighted to see that a key recommendation of the Academy of Medical Sciences Team Science follow up report is for clear career pathways and development opportunities for technician, technologist and skills specialist routes. A key theme of the Technician Commitment is to ensure positive change in this area for these roles which play such a crucial role in delivering science and innovation. It is excellent to see such positive practice from the University of Glasgow, and increasingly others across the sector, driving parity of esteem and ultimately, a step change in how technical careers are respected, developed and aspired to.”

Kelly Vere, Science Council

 Read the full report: From innovation to implementation: team science two years on.