Sustainability the key focus at National Conference for Science Technicians
Sustainability initiatives were at the heart of a national conference that attracted and united technicians from across the scientific sphere.
Around 120 practitioners came together in person at the National Space Centre and online for the National Conference for Science Technicians last month, which offered a programme focused on both the green credentials of their work and the sustainability of technical skills and careers.
Organised by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), the Royal Society of Biology and the Institute of Physics; the September 21 event had six speakers and was massively beneficial in helping members from the different organisations to exchange ideas and examples of best practice.
Sustainability was the focal point of the day’s discussions and there were plenty of opportunities for networking, with representatives of both the National Technician Development Centre and the Institute of Science and Technology also among those in attendance.
The RSC's Sustainable laboratories report was briefly discussed in the morning session, showcasing the clear links between technician roles and lab sustainability. Everyone involved looks forward to continuing these conversations as delegates were left with something to consider in terms of how their working practices could impact sustainability.
RSC Professional Registration Specialist and Specialist and Technician Commitment Project Lead Catherine Tuckey co-organised the conference and said of the experience: “This was a great event and everything went really well, including the hybrid delivery, and the National Space Centre was a brilliant venue to host the conference.
"The importance of networking underpinned a number of talks. It was clear that development opportunities or environmental initiatives become really successful through collaboration with other teams and external contacts.
"It was also apparent how well-placed technicians are to deliver sustainability improvements within labs due to their specialist knowledge, comprehensive understanding of the lab environment, and highly developed problem-solving skills.
"It’s also great to collaborate with our sister societies and we will look to develop these links for the benefit of the entire scientific community."
The conference in Leicester was split into two parts, with the morning focusing on environmental sustainability and particularly the role technicians can play in the development and execution of greener practices.
The latter half of the day explored different avenues for career progression and development, emphasising the importance of self-reflection and taking opportunities to broaden horizons, such as going on secondment if available.
Attendee and RSC member Kat Harris said she thought the opportunity to meet people with similar experiences outside her regular field was useful for developing new insights and approaches.
The teaching technician at Imperial College London said: “I really appreciated having a chance to meet with other technicians and exchange practical ideas on how to improve sustainability in the lab.
“As a technician, it can be easy to get blinkered with the day-to-day work, so it was good to take a step back and see some of the different ways people have been raising the profile of technicians in their workplace. It was an inspiring day, for thinking about both environmental and professional sustainability. I have brought back lots of ideas to put into practice!”
The professional bodies expressed a desire to develop the relationships built through networking on the day, opening the door for future collaborative initiatives.
And with the talks described as ‘inspiring’, ‘really engaging’ and ‘highly relevant’, the benefits for technicians were clear and could spell further opportunities.
“It was brilliant to see the Royal Societies of Biology and Chemistry, coming together with the Institute of Physics to celebrate the critical role technicians play in sustainability; both environmental and that of technical careers. Seeing the thread of the Technician Commitment running through all the day’s presentations showed the impact that the initiative is having across the sector,” said Dr Simon Breeden, who is the associate lead for the Technician Commitment.
“The quality of the presentations in the morning session on environmental sustainability was exceptionally high and the impact of the work done by technicians on the ground clearly demonstrated the critical role we will play in moving towards net zero.”
The RSC’s Laura Woodward was one of the speakers at the conference, along with Caitlin Broadbent, of the UCL Ear Institute; Martin Farley, Sustainable Laboratory Manager at UCL (who provided a pre-recorded video presentation); Suhel Miah, from HEaTED; and the University of Nottingham’s Lee Hibbett. The keynote speech was delivered by Dr Rajvee Punatar, of the Francis Crick Institute.
With multiple areas of focus across the day, there were plenty of benefits for those who made the trip to Leicester as the career development element of the day illustrated to practitioners the opportunities they have in their own industries as well as when it comes to shaping practices within labs.
Dr Breeden added: “The afternoon session on technical careers was both inspiring and informative, showing the importance of technical career pathways and how these can be supported by professional bodies. The Crick Institute highlighted the important role that secondments can play in career development for technicians; this showcasing of clear career pathways for technicians is crucial for the sector to enable us to attract and retain the technical talent needed.”
Are you interested in making your lab more sustainable?
You might be interested to learn that the Royal Society of Chemistry has recently launched a new campaign, Sustainable Laboratories.
The aim of this is to help scientists reduce the environmental footprint of their research. Our report details the challenges and opportunities for chemists, while also spelling out our action plan. There are also case studies and resources to offer inspiration.
What would you like to find out about sustainable laboratories?
- +44 (0) 20 7440 3351
- Send us an email