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Fair Attribution Guidelines

Technicians, technologists and skills specialists provide the University and its external stakeholders with expertise that is vital for the functioning of its research community and the outputs of high-quality research and innovation. These colleagues underpin the primary activities of our research and innovation activities creating the foundations for technical excellence in research, teaching, knowledge exchange and innovation.

In 2018 the University pledged to support the Technician Commitment for any technical staff based in faculties. The Technician Commitment is a university and research institution initiative that aims to ensure visibility, recognition, career development and sustainability for technicians working in higher education and research, across all disciplines.

Aligned with the University’s strategy Universal Values, Global Change, these guidelines are designed to recognise the great contribution made by technical and specialist skills staff, to ensure their skills, roles and careers are recognised, respected, aspired to, supported, and developed.  The guidelines emphasise the need for our community of research and innovation colleagues to foster a culture of collaboration, focussing not only on individual academic achievement, but also on teamwork in support of the University’s values of collaboration; compassion; inclusivity; and integrity.

These guidelines address the recommendations of UKRI who funded the Talent Commission, through rolling out the practice of recognising contributions from the technical and specialist support staff.  This will support the vision for the UK to be a global superpower in science, engineering, and the creative industries, enabled by its technical capability across academia, research, education and innovation.

Fair Attribution Guidelines for Technical and Specialist Support

The University of Leeds recognises the importance of technical, technologists and skills specialists in conducting research and innovation within the University, and that the quality of the outputs is not only enhanced through the equipment and services available, but also by the teams of talented support staff helping deliver the research.

Users of facilities and services will interact with technical and specialist support staff at different stages in their research. These interactions can include for example, contributing to the building of experimental items, the preparation of materials, delivery of training on equipment, running of routine samples, development of experimental designs, analysis of results, software development, literature searches, systematic reviews, photography, archival descriptions, and metadata creation.

Our University Publications Policy underpins the open research theme of the institutional Research Culture Strategic Plan and supports the need for a full record of researcher and institutional research outputs. It is therefore acknowledged that the contribution that the technical and specialist staff and facilities make to a research output is attributed in the appropriate manner. It is expected all research active staff follow these guidelines and that Post-Doctoral Research Assistants and PhD students agree to follow the fair attribution guidelines detailed below, with their supervisors, in advance of conducting their research.

The University has identified a number of distinct, but not exclusive, use cases of facilities or services:

  1. User led experiments within a facility, with initial training by the facility staff.
  2. Facility/technical staff supporting experimental design and/or data acquisition and/or data interpretation and analysis.
  3. Collaboration with external users in which the facility/technical staff support experimental design and/or data acquisition, and/or data interpretation.
  4. The preparation of items or materials used during research.
  5. Research software engineers undertaking software development.
  6. Systematic reviews and literature searches conducted by skills specialist staff
  7. Use of art, archival and cultural collections.
  8. Occasional use, to obtain data for an experiment, where the facility staff perform routine characterisation and forward the data to the user to undertake analysis.

For all cases, the University expects that publications and reports will include the following acknowledgement statement:

“The Authors acknowledge the use of [insert equipment or service used] supplied by/within the [team/facility name and department if appropriate], University of Leeds”

In cases 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, the research will have drawn on intellectual contributions from one or more technical, technologists and skills specialist staff. These researchers should be included within the author list of the resultant publication or report and included in discussions during drafting and publication.

In cases 7 and 8, the technical staff assisting with the experiment or providing access to collections should be acknowledged by name:

“The Authors would like to acknowledge the help of << name>> and the use of <<service or characterisation facilities>> within the <<name of team/facility and department if relevant>>, at the University of Leeds.”

It is important there is a shared responsibility across our entire University community to ensure these guidelines and values are embedded in all our research and innovation activity. Wherever possible, discussions to establish what would be deemed as fair attribution should take place in advance of the contributions by the technical or skills specialist staff commencing.

If the fair attribution guidelines are not followed, concerns can be raised with Heads of School/Services.