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Academic Careers

Vitae’s Professional Development Planner

Developing into a successful researcher takes much more than learning science. Yes, it requires you to gain technical skills and knowledge in your field. But it also requires some less tangible attributes: an ability to see the bigger picture and to work well with others, an understanding of professional and ethical standards, and many other things. Vitae, a U.K. organization promoting the personal and professional development of researchers, has developed an excellent planning tool to help you make progress on all of these fronts. 
Vitae’s Professional Development Planner has divided the skills that researchers need in order to be effective into four major areas: knowledge and intellectual abilities; personal effectiveness; research governance and organization; and engagement, influence and impact. The Planner can be downloaded for free as an Excel sheet that will allow you to determine which skills you should focus on at what stage, and to come up with an action plan. The Professional Development Planner is accompanied with a screencast that will take you through the process, and examples of how other researchers have used the Planner.
The Professional Development Planner is a resource that was developed by Vitae as part of a broader initiative called the Researcher Development Framework (RDF). Launched in September, 2010, the RDF identified the “knowledge, behaviours and attitudes of researchers” described above and encourages researchers “to aspire to excellence through achieving higher levels of development,” the Vitae Web site reads. 
In addition to developing researchers, the RDF is designed to help PIs in their mentoring role, and U.K. higher education institutions in supporting researchers’ development. According to a survey carried out by Vitae in February, 62% of 42 U.K. responding higher education institutions were using the RDF principles, and another 29% planned to begin using them.