The National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) supports 24 projects that maintain its National Research Infrastructure (NRI). In addition to providing researchers with access to world-class and cutting-edge facilities, NCRIS employs 1,800 expert personnel. Australia’s NRI expert workforce is recognised as a significant national asset.
With many NRI project facilities located at universities, Research Infrastructure Specialists (RIS) are hired into these institutions as either professional or academic staff. However, neither university job family is a suitable match for the actual skills and responsibilities of our RIS employees.
In the professional stream, an RIS cannot get promoted above their entry level without a reclassification of their job role. On the other hand, promotion within the academic stream is possible, but the usual KPIs are not appropriate for the supportive roles that RI Specialists perform within the national research and development landscape.
The majority of ANFF Node employees are classified as professional staff. As a result, their career development in technical skills, training, and expertise is not sufficiently recognised. Professional staff become more valuable with experience and need to be rewarded as such – otherwise they will go elsewhere.
Australian universities need to improve how they reward and recognise this important cohort of specialists, and the NCRIS Project Directors are calling for a change in how RI specialists are classified.
Prepared by the NCRIS Skilled Workforce working group, the NCRIS Research Infrastructure Specialist Position Paper proposes a new job classification system for these employees. Within this system, RI specialists would be eligible for promotion without the need for role reclassification and change in core duties. However, evaluation for promotion would be based on KPIs more appropriate for RI specialists, reflecting expected progression in job skills, expertise and responsibilities within NRI.
‘The NCRIS Directors group acknowledges the importance of this issue to the workforce that supports the incredible research infrastructure capabilities that Australia uses to support world class research and development. We hope this position paper will prompt both discussion and solutions to support the key resource, our people,’ explains Jane Fitzpatrick, ANFF CEO and a member of the NCRIS working group.
The NCRIS Directors RI Workforce Position Paper is a call to attention and action from all stakeholders in the NRI ecosystem, including the Department of Education, universities, higher education peak representative bodies, and lobby groups. The NCRIS Project Director group is ready to work with our university partners to understand the issue and implement solutions. To maintain Australia’s world-class research infrastructure, RI specialists must be recognised and rewarded for their talents and the immeasurable value they provide to Australia’s economic prosperity.
Click here to download the NCRIS Directors RI Workforce Position Paper.