Developing our engines of research

 28 November 2018   Institute News

“This is your day and what you have to say matters” – Tamsin Napier-Munn, The Trevelyan Group.

The first MRC Facilities Managers Forum took place on 8 November 2018 at the Royal Society of Chemistry, Burlington House. The aims of the forum were to support the bringing together of technical staff, open up the conversation and provide the space for potential collaboration between Institutes.

The day was facilitated by Tamsin Napier-Munn from The Trevelyan Group and the initial welcome was delivered by the MRC Head of Organisational Development, Jeroen Stam.

Jeroen spoke about the importance of increasing visibility and recognition for the incredible work technicians do. He set the scene for the day as having “two main parts, first sharing what the MRC are doing in terms of initiatives and how people can get involved, second, a workshop and networking opportunity to realise what this can mean for developing your Institute, your team and yourself.”

Tamsin shared the feeling that there was “a real buzz in the room and excitement at being surrounded by such a wealth of talent and expertise.” Her initial welcome evoked a sense of focus on building this community of facilities and expertise and achieving a collective goal moving forwards, ensuring that the day had an impact on all attendees.

Why are you here?

Tamsin opened up this question to the facility heads with responses of wanting to share best practice, find out how other institutes teams had evolved and the structure of facilities had developed and how expertise could be shared.

The address by Linda Holliday, MRC Director of Capacity and Skills Development, shared the emphasis that the MRC (and UKRI more broadly) want to make on “attraction and retention of talent and diversity in the workforce, and their commitment to the development of people in this room and their teams.” She spoke about what they are doing as a funder, the support they can offer ‘the movement’ and their interactive career framework showcasing the variety of routes into biomedical research. She shared the importance of team science highlighting that the best science is produced by diverse teams.

“Make it count.” – Tamsin Napier-Munn, The Trevelyan Group

The forum included talks from a variety of speakers covering topics from leadership to supporting development to professional registration followed by a Q&A session. Suhel Miah, National STEM Learning Network spoke about technicians and their role in leadership. Focusing on key words such as help, confidence, reflection, honesty and courage and how these can help influence and inspire. Kelly Vere, Higher Education Engagement Manager, Science Council, spoke about the technician’s commitment and its potential as a fantastic opportunity to effect some change in the visibility and recognition for technical staff. Jane Banks, Employer Engagement Manager, Science Council discussed the Professional Registration process for technicians and benefits of the process, emphasising the empowerment and value staff can feel when recognised.

Visibility, Recognition, Career Development and Sustainability

After lunch the attention shifted to a workshop on visibility, recognition, career development and sustainability. Each group focused on one of the themes and explored the challenges faced by facility staff, the opportunities and steps that could be taken to support them.


Jenna Stevens-Smith, Head of Communications and Engagement, LMS, summed up the day,

“There was a feeling of a collaborative call to action across the Institutes to deliver better science and support the development of facility staff in the delivery of this aim. It was clear that attendees valued the opportunity to share best practice, meet their counterparts and others from across the MRC Institutes and gain an insight into what they do. With further opportunity to explore areas of overlap and gaps. Personally, I was particularly keen to support my colleague Gabby, who leads our Development working group at LMS. Gabby’s passion for staff development through initiatives at LMS and now across the MRC has helped to progress the support for visibility and recognition of facility staff. What is clear to me is that the facilities are engines that enable research at MRC Institutes, by developing the people driving these we will deliver better science.”

Moving forwards

The positive energy at the event was captured through reflections shared by attendees at the end of the event.

Lydia Teboul, Molecular and Cellular Biology Services, MRC Harwell,

“There’s a gang here, who could be a force together.”

Zuzanna Lalanne, RCaH Operations, Harwell Research Complex,

“I’m struck by how friendly everyone is.”

Gabriela Ahmadi-Assalemi, Computing, MRC LMS

“It has been great to catch up with counterparts at other Institutes. There are lots of shared challenges across the Institutes.”

Zoe Webster, MRC LMS

“This is the first time this has happened. Often Group Heads and Directors get together but not Facility Managers.”

Mark Gardiner, Operations, MRC Harwell

“Looking forward to taking shared ideas forward.”