The Researcher Development Framework is a major new approach to researcher development and is of great significance to individuals, institutions and the UK research base. In this post I shall briefly describe what it is, where it came from, and the reason for its existence. I shall then explain in more detail its content and what it means for you as Doctoral Researchers.
The Researcher Development Framework is a tool for planning, promoting, and supporting the personal, professional and career development of researchers in higher education. It describes the knowledge, skills, behaviours and personal qualities of researchers, and encourages them to aspire to excellence through achieving higher levels of development.
The project is funded and managed by an organisation called Vitae, and builds on a number of precursors, including the Joint Skills Statement. Vitae is a Research Council-funded body tasked with realising the potential of researchers by providing guidance both for them and for those who support them.
A 2001 report by Sir Gareth Roberts concluded that all PhD students and post-doctoral researchers should undertake a minimum of 2 weeks’ training per year in transferable and generic skills. His conclusion was based on the realisation that institutions were not adapting quickly enough to the rapidly changing needs of industry. The subsequent Roberts money funded various initiatives with the remit of providing transferable skills training.
Transferable skills can be defined simply as “Skills learned in one context that are useful in another”. This type of training provides resources and tools to help researchers improve their employment prospects. It also aids them in their ongoing research, thereby increasing completion rates and overall satisfaction.
The RDF sets out these transferable skills in a format that allows researchers and support staff to establish training needs and to assess learning outcomes. Whereas many codes of practice and guidance documents are intended primarily for HE staff, the Researcher Development Framework is designed to be used also by the researchers themselves, as a key tool in Continuing Professional Development. The framework has been developed from first principles through interviews with successful researchers in a range of disciplines, and is continually under review.
Having explained the background of the RDF, I am now going to cover its content in more detail:
The RDF is divided into four domains. Within each of these domains are three sub-domains and associated descriptors, which describe different aspects of being a researcher. It is a very detailed document, so I shall just draw out some of the key elements of each domain. There are links to the document itself and other resources at the end of this post.
Domain A is ‘Knowledge and intellectual abilities’ – covering subject expertise, literacy, numeracy, IT proficiency, and creative thinking
Domain B is ‘Personal effectiveness’ – covering motivation, self-management, and commitment to Continuing Professional Development
Domain C is ‘Research governance and organisation’ – covering professional conduct, research management, and awareness of funding processes
Domain D is ‘Engagement, influence and impact’ – covering ability to work with others, communication of ideas, and engagement with the wider community, for example teaching and speaking at conferences
The Researcher Development Framework has also been incorporated into a downloadable CPD tool. This allows researchers to identify the areas in the framework they want to develop further, and then to create an action plan and record evidence of their progress. This data is helpful in preparing for annual reviews with supervisors and also for job interviews. Researcher profiles on the Vitae website show how people from different disciplines have successfully mapped their progress against the Framework. Examples include organising conferences, joining committees, and contributing to peer-reviewed journals.
So, that’s the content of the RDF. Now I shall explain how it benefits you and why you should use it.
The RDF helps you plan your professional career development, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and to prioritise the development opportunities provided by your institution. Furthermore, it supports you in making a substantial and original contribution to knowledge in your field. Transferable skills training will enhance your research and clearly demonstrate your impressive range of skills to potential employers. It thereby ensures you make the transition from successful researcher to valued employee. In conclusion, the Researcher Development Framework is there to turn you into a world-class researcher.