Karolinska Institutet first out to launch staff scientist career path – Annika Jenmalm Jensen wants others to follow
Dedicated career paths have been created for infrastructure staff scientists by Karolinska Institutet. SciLifeLab Infrastructure Director Annika Jenmalm Jensen highlights staff scientists as the main SciLifeLab asset.
The importance of research infrastructures and its staff is increasing when science becomes more interdisciplinary and complex. Science today is a collaborative effort, but academic culture has not kept up with this change. Staff scientists have been poorly recognized by their employees, the universities. A defined career path for this category of scientists has been missing, and still is to a large extent.
Karolinska Institutet has now taken an important step towards improving the infrastructure staff scientist career possibilities with the creation of two new positions: research infrastructure specialist and senior research infrastructure specialist.
“Ever since I started in 2016, I have tried to lobby for this to happen. SciLifeLab has more than 400 infrastructure and staff scientists. Although research infrastructures often depend on high-end expensive instruments it is really the staff scientists working at the research infrastructures that are the main asset” says Annika Jenmalm Jensen, SciLifeLab Infrastructure Director.
In 2020, Universitetens Referensgrupp för Forskningsinfrastruktur* (URFI) gave Stefan Nordlund at Stockholm University the task to investigate possibilities for alternative career tracks for infrastructure staff at SciLifeLab and MAX IV. In his report, Stefan Nordlund advised a similar two track system as has now been approved by Karolinska Institutet. In a SciLifeLab board meeting in 2020, the following was said about the report: “… further work is needed for implementation at the universities. SciLifeLab will do what it can to promote career development and training of staff scientists and other infrastructure personnel”.
Since all staff scientists at SciLifeLab are employed at a university, SciLifeLab cannot influence career opportunities formally. Something SciLifeLab can do, and have been doing for a long time, is promoting the leaders of the infrastructure. Head of Units at SciLifeLab are responsible for infrastructure service operation, personnel, budget and so on, and are now more frequently being recognized formally as leaders within the universities. What is still lacking is career opportunities for the many scientists that work inside the infrastructures.
“Hopefully, we are now enough stakeholders in Sweden so that we all can work together to create a better way of recognizing this category of scientists” says Annika Jenmalm Jensen.
Learn more about the Karolinska Institutet initiative.
* The universities’ reference group for research infrastructure, directly translated.
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