I attended Vitae Connections Week in September – and was really surprised by the Future of the RDF session and the reflections I did afterwards. During the session it became clear that there were two approaches: 1 – use the RDF to map the institution’s learning and development offers against it (was quite common) and 2 – show researchers how to use it for their development (not that common).

The common theme was that institutions felt that researchers didn’t use the RDF and the associated RDF planner and often didn’t even know about the RDF. How can we expect researchers to know about this tool if we don’t explain how it can be used? If you are familiar with the RDF but want to know how I use it click here to skip the RDF overview.

The Vitae Researcher Development Framework (RDF) is structured into four domains covering the knowledge, behaviours and attributes of researchers. It sets out the wide-ranging knowledge, intellectual abilities, techniques and professional standards expected to do research, as well as the personal qualities, knowledge and skills to work with others and ensure the wider impact of research. Within each of the domains there are three sub-domains and associated descriptors.

Read more about Domain A: Knowledge and intellectual abilities: The knowledge, intellectual abilities and techniques to do research 

Read more about Domain B: Personal effectiveness: The personal qualities and approach to be an effective researcher

Read more about Domain C: Research governance and organisation: Knowledge of the professional standards and requirements to do research

Read more about Domain D: Engagement, influence and impact: The knowledge and skills to work with others to ensure the wider impact of research 

Click here to download the Researcher Development Framework pdf

I started by trying to map our activities against the RDF labelling sessions with the domains etc. However I soon realised that this doesn’t really mean anything and I changed my focus to design sessions that explain the RDF and how it can be used.

RDF Self-assessment

Since we don’t subscribe to the RDF planner I created a version with Excel sheets that then produce a spider digram to provide a development overview. The self-assessment is a great way to see where you are and what areas you might want to focus on. Using some of the materials from the Vitae website can help identify areas that need more attention.

Using the available lenses and the full RDF there are three self-assessments.

  1. Getting started in research lens (recommend for anyone new to research e.g., starting a PhD or career change from practice)
  2. Teaching lens (links RDF to UKPSF)
  3. Complete RDF

I encourage you to keep a record of your RDF self-assessment and use it when preparing for reviews, job applications or grant proposals.

RDF self-assessment and reviews

RDF wheel with Domain D Engagement, influence and impact raised. On the right a comic of a women working at a computer.

I’m currently preparing for my 6 months interim review at work. A great time to check in with the RDF and see how I’m doing. For my reviews I focus on things I need to help my progress my career and that I can’t easily cover with my day to day activities. For example: Leadership, if I want to progress I need to improve my leadership skills. I do get some opportunities at work to do this but I’m actively looking for ways to develop these skills further. There is a leadership category on the RDF D1.6 Influence and leadership. I’m probably in Phase 3 with room for improvement within this phase. So looking at phase 4 and 5 I can see what’s expected at these phases and the role of shaping policy. So I need to learn more about policy at my institution and the sector. So this year I applied to be the deputy co-chair of the Researcher Development and Training Committee which reports to the Universities Scotland VCEG committee (Click here to read more about the Universities Scotland committees). Being able to justify taking on the role as deputy co-chair helps me in my review process as I can show how it helps me progress, as well as showing what benefits this brings to my institution. In turn, this helps me get the time and support for the committee work.

You can do the complete RDF and then decide what areas to focus on or you can have a read and target strategic domains and sub-domains.

RDF self-assessment and job applications

The RDF wheel with Domain C Research Governance and organisation raised. On the right a comic of people adding tiles to a giant tablet.

I use the RDF and its wording to help write my CV, cover letter and when writing about how I meet essential and/or desirable criteria. This has been really helpful for transferable skills. For example, C2.2 Research management; Project planning and delivery: Phase 2 explains really well what I do and I can then elaborate on this using my own projects and experience. Having the more generic wording can really help to get started with different aspects of job applications. This has been particularly helpful when describing skills like team working (D1.2) or teaching (D3.1).

For job applications it can be helpful to search the RDF for key terms used on the job advert and then see what phase best describes you to then use that wording as a starting point.

If you want to know more about running a Getting started with the RDF session or access to the Self-assessment Excel file please get in touch.