Who gets credit? Fair attribution and publishing for technicians at the University of Cambridge





Technicians have long been an underserved community within research, with limited opportunities for career development and a lack of acknowledgement for the vital role they play. The University of Cambridge was a founding signatory of the Technician Commitment in 2017, which aims to address these issues. Fair attribution for technicians through either co-authorship or direct acknowledgement in research publications is a key component of the Visibility and Recognition aspects of this initiative. Technicians are also increasingly being recognised as a vital part of the research process by bodies such as UKRI and BBSRC, and in the next REF. However, there is currently no standard practice in the University for crediting the role of technicians in research, who thus experience great disparity in their recognition and visibility in scholarly outputs.  

During September 2023, we piloted two instances of an interactive workshop for technical staff within the School of Biological Sciences. The session aimed to introduce the publication process and the concepts of acknowledgement and authorship, empowering technicians to recognise when their work should be credited, and how tools such as ORCID and the CRediT taxonomy can help. The workshop also provided an opportunity for technicians to meet each other and share their varying experiences with authorship and attribution.  

The project has begun to diversify the audience of Cambridge University Libraries’ education and skills training, helping to develop a research culture that addresses the changing expectations around acknowledgement and authorship. Supporting technicians to be appropriately credited for their contributions to academic work will help develop more equitable research assessment and a healthier research culture in which technical careers are better respected.    

This presentation discussed the content and outcomes of the workshops, which are now informing draft institutional guidance on fair acknowledgement and attribution for staff in roles that support research. It will explore our work in progress as we look to include the wider technical community within Cambridge, including those in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. This paper is of relevance to those working within research support, particularly in STEMM disciplines, but we hope the principles are more widely applicable for anybody interested in positive culture change in research.