Researcher Development Framework and you!

At first glance the RDF can look a little overwhelming. If you look a little closer it actually contains a wealth of useful information to help you review your professional and personal development and set helpful goals for the future.

CIPD Handout_4pp A5_Web


The RDF was developed for Vitae to identify the key areas which researchers need to develop in order the get their career off to the best possible start and to continue to develop successfully. This is what the Vitae website says:

The Researcher Development Framework articulates the knowledge, behaviours and attributes of successful researchers and encourages them to aspire to excellence through achieving higher levels of development.

The framework is a comprehensive new approach to enhancing the careers of researchers. It was developed by and for researchers, in consultation with academic and non-academic employers.

How it works

The RDF is divided into 4 main domains. These give an overview of the areas where researchers ought to be developing knowledge, behaviours and attributes throughout the PhD and research careers. Each of these domains are then divided into a further 3 sub-domains (12 in total). These give more details of these areas and then they are divided finally into descriptors which outline the details of the knowledge, behaviours and attributes involved in each area.

What can I use it for?

You can use the RDF to help you to develop your knowledge, behaviours and attributes throughout your PhD so that you feel confident when moving on to whatever your next career move is, be it within academia or not.

  • At the beginning of each year you could select 3-5 descriptors from the RDF which you want to work on. Then, with the help of your supervisors, peers and organisations like the IAD and Vitae, you can seek out ways of improving in these areas. At the end of the year review your progress in these areas and choose where you want to focus for the next year. Don’t forget to document your development and training.
  • Use the language of the RDF descriptors to help you to identify and write about your skills in your CV and job applications.
  • There are a variety of Lenses which are being developed to help researchers and research managers to focus on the areas of the RDF which are most useful for your development and progress, for example Leadership, Teaching and Enterprise.


  • Developed by researchers for researchers
  • For professional and personal development
  • Understand your strengths
  • Help identify gaps
  • Set goals against it
  • Self reflection tool
  • Shared language with researchers, academics and employer


The RDF is something which is coming more and more into use and institutions across the UK are beginning to use their websites to articulate how their training and support for PhD students and research staff matches up with the descriptors of the RDF. It is also being used far more widely by researchers and research managers to focus development and articulation of skills.

If you have any comments or feedback please tweet @iad4phd

Fiona McCabe (IAD Doctoral Training Manager)

The PhD Cycle

So, if the PhD is a process made up of initiating and ‘hopefully’ completing smaller tasks then it is reasonable to expect that this process will have an emotional impact depending on which stage you are at and the outcome of your current task. And this is perfectly normal.

PhD Cycles

The diagram tries to show that everything in the PhD cycle involves thinking and writing about your PhD and within that overall cycle there is a smaller process of initiating, scoping, focus forming, implementing, completing and reviewing tasks. At each of these stages there may be a vast variety of emotions involved.

There are some things which you can do to try to minimise the negative impacts and maximise the positive.

  • Use SMART goals to help you to manage your work load. These are goals which are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Based. If you put goals in place which follow this formula then you are more likely to succeed and feel less afraid of the marathon task ahead of you.
  • Remember to review outcomes of different tasks. It is all too easy to rush from task to tasks without taking the time to review. The value of this is in seeing what you can learn for next time and celebrating success.
  • Read my previous post about time management

Academic blogging and your research

Do you blog about your research? It seems to me that blogging as either a reflective or discursive tool can be very helpful. I know several academics who blog about their work and there seem to be a variety of benefits:

  • It provides a space for you to get your ideas together
  • It allows for a playful space for you to experiment
  • You can get comments from peers
  • It can help you to fine tune your writing skills
  • It can help you to get exposure for your work.

If you do blog about your research, and you aren’t already doing so, you might want to link up your blog with a twitter feed to connect your social media presence.

Let us know how you use your blog on twitter at


Fiona (Doctoral Training Manager, IAD)