The Society of Biology has launched a new professional register to support the development of biologists. Acceptance onto the register is based primarily upon competency rather than formal qualifications, and there are now three levels of recognition suitable for those at different stages of their scientific career
Under a license from the Science Council, the Society of Biology can now provide Registered Science Technician, Registered Scientist and Chartered Scientist statuses. This is in addition to its existing Chartered Biologist status, which is awarded to experienced biologists. By joining a professional register, scientists show their dedication to gaining new skills and increase their employability.
Mike Trevethick, Senior Project Manager for the Technicians’ Register at the Society of Biology, explains the importance of the new registers for technicians: “A recent report from the Technician Council highlighted the need to invest in skilled technicians so we can fill the large number of technician jobs anticipated by 2020. Technicians underpin scientific development, and our new registers are designed to nurture their valuable skills and support their career progression. The opportunity to gain Registered and Chartered statuses provide scientists with a clear development pathway which until now they have been lacking.”
The first grade, Registered Science Technician (RSciTech), is suitable for anyone who has been working in the biosciences for one to two years following a Level 3 qualification (such as A levels or Advanced Level Apprenticeships). However, formal qualifications are not required and equivalent skills can be developed through training in the workplace. Many experienced technicians have advanced their careers to a high level without formal qualifications.
The second grade, Registered Scientist (RSci), is suitable for scientists with three to four years of experience, or one to two years of experience following a Level 5 qualification (such as an HND Foundation Degree or Higher Apprenticeship). People undertaking apprenticeships may well find that these schemes meet many of the requirements for registration as an RSciTech or RSci.
Paul Ritchie CBiol MSB, a member of the Professional Recognition Panel for Registered Science Technician, says: “As a graduate in zoology with a certificate in ecology and conservation and 22 years’ membership of the Society of Biology I consider the benefits of the new registers for scientists to be two-fold.
“Firstly, by providing a clearly identifiable entry requirement based on membership of a Learned Society, national qualifications and, perhaps as importantly, professional competencies, the Society of Biology registers offer biological scientists professional credibility through the Science Council similar to that long provided to others such as engineers and surveyors.
“Secondly, the requirement of the new registers for a commitment to continuing professional development is matched by providing a framework that applies objectivity to recognising a variety of formal and informal learning and development activities, such as self-learning, work-based learning and attending seminars and conferences. At a time of increased competition for recruitment and employment, as well as reduced funding for formal training courses, the new registers offer professional scientists real benefits for employment and development.”
The highest grade, Chartered Status is suitable for those with a Master’s level qualification or equivalent, and significant professional experience. Professional registration is also possible for applicants with no formal qualifications. In this case, evidence of skills and knowledge gained in the workplace can be submitted to demonstrate educational equivalency.
Evidence of competencies is the major requirement for professional registration. This will include how the scientist has completed given tasks, exercised responsibility in the use of protocols, and communicated and worked effectively.
In addition, registrants must demonstrate a commitment to CPD (continuing professional development). Most scientists will find that activities they are currently engaged in will count towards the CPD necessary for inclusion in the registers, and what activities are valuable to a scientist’s development will depend on their situation. CPD could include training staff, learning new techniques, training courses taken at work, presenting at a conference, attending a Society of Biology Branch Event and self-study in any area of biological interest.
It is important that science professionals value their skills, and many scientists find they are already doing CPD activities which they have overlooked. Working towards Registered or Chartered statuses often reveals the level of skills the scientist is already developing. For example, when someone teaches another member of staff how to use a piece of equipment they often forget that they are demonstrating valuable management and communication skills. Both the teacher and trainee have contributed to their CPD.
The Associate Director of Pathology Laboratory Services, Huntingdon Life Sciences, says: “I’ve had first-hand experience of the progression from technician to senior management and fully recognise the importance of what, in my opinion, is one of the most crucial roles in any bioscience research environment.
“Maintaining registration through Continuing Professional Development can seem daunting at any stage of a career, but it’s important to know almost all activities that affect your role count towards your yearly targets. Presenting to your peers at an office meeting, reading The Biologist, revising a Standard Operating Procedure, training a new member of staff and learning a new technique would fulfil your requirements if completed within your CPD year. Communicating this effectively allows individuals at all levels, from Registered Science Technician to Chartered Scientist, to fully appreciate and understand their own skills, better visualising their goals for the following year.”
In addition to providing awards to those scientists who have earned each grade, the Society of Biology also guides scientists through the process of working towards professional registration. They have access to an online portal, where they can track their CPD. Each activity is logged, along with a reflection on how it contributed to professional development. Guidance documents for all the Society of Biology registers and the CPD scheme can be found at www.societyofbiology.org/development/.
A key element of the Society of Biology Professional Registers is career development. Through formal education, and training and development in the work place, scientists may become eligible to apply for Registered Scientist status and can progress further to Chartered Biologist or Chartered Scientist status.
Professionally recognising those who work in the life sciences at a high level, Chartered Status helps public confidence in professionals and gives employers confidence in their employees. For many people working in the biosciences, their work crosses into other areas of science, and Chartered Scientist status will benefit their recognition in pan-science roles.
Chartered Scientist status (designated by the post-nominal letters CSci) provides a benchmark for scientists working in scientific roles, recognised as a hallmark of excellence in the UK and the European Union.
Mike says: “We are always pleased to speak with anyone who is considering Registration; we can offer advice and support to ensure you and your employer invest in your professional development. I would also encourage people to ask their employer or training provider about professional recognition, and to bring it up in a job interview. By discussing this in an interview you not only gauge how supportive your employer will be of your development, you also show the interviewer your dedication to a career in science.”
LifeScan Scotland, a member of the Johnson & Johnson family of companies and one of the leading life science companies in the UK, will be actively encouraging its technicians to register.
Peter Wilson, Senior Scientist at LifeScan Scotland, says: “This is an excellent opportunity for technicians and scientists across the UK to become registered and recognised in their individual bioscience industries and disciplines. Signing up to the new register will add weight to their experience and expertise and give them that edge when applying for new roles or promotions. Additionally, the register will give technicians a greater sense of identity and responsibility.
“The traditional link of having qualification-based membership to professional registers is now opened up to those experienced and valued technicians that have progressed from school, through apprenticeships or have obtained vocational qualifications.”
- More information
The launch of the registers will be marked by an event at Charles Darwin House in London on 19th October, during Biology Week. This will be a chance to network with other scientists and to learn about the impact of the Society of Biology Professional Registers. If you are interested in attending the event, or would like further information on the registers, please speak to Mike Trevethick, firstname.lastname@example.org, 0207 685 2568 www.societyofbiology.org
The author: Rebecca Nesbit
Rebecca Nesbit is press officer at the Society of Biology. She has previously worked as a research assistant training honeybees to detect explosives, and studied long-distance butterfly migration