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)

5 thoughts on “Researcher Development Framework and you!

  1. Pingback: Welcome along/back! | iad4phd

  2. Pingback: New Faces at the Institute for Academic Development (IAD) | iad4phd

  3. Aw, this was an incredibly nice post. Spending some time and actual effort to produce
    a good article… but what can I say… I put things off
    a whole lot and don’t seem to get nearly anything done.|

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