New ESF-funded feasibility study calls for a single European Researcher Development Framework


Strasbourg 03/09/12 - The European Science Foundation has released a new report detailing its feasibility study on a pan-European professional development framework.  The aim of the study was to assess the applicability across Europe of a generic framework for the professional development of researchers based on the Vitae Researcher Development Framework (RDF). The RDF is a UK-context framework set up with the purpose to better define researcher's professional profiles and to develop guidance for the continuous professional development of researchers. The report reveals that there is a real demand among researchers for a more structured approach towards researcher´s professional development and active career planning.

This new ESF-co-funded study, with its members from the ESF MO Forum on Research Career Development, has applied the existing Vitae Researcher Development Framework in Europe. The RDF has been designed for:

  • researchers to evaluate and plan their own personal, professional and career development
  • principal investigators and supervisors of researchers in their role supporting the development of researchers
  • trainers, developers, human resources specialists and careers advisors in the planning and provision of support for researchers' development
  • employers to provide an understanding of the blend of skills unique to researchers and their potential as employees

The testing of the RDF in different European settings gave encouraging results in overcoming some of the identified deficiencies and in progressing towards a shared understanding of the skills and attributes that characterise modern researchers. Furthermore, the RDF proved to be a solid basis for making researchers reflect on their skills and attributes and on their career aspirations in general. It provides an important potential to support the professional development of researchers in any national or institutional environment.

The report detailed that there are big differences between countries in their overall awareness and readiness to engage and invest into the general development and career development of researchers. However, there is a real demand among researchers for a more structured approach towards researcher´s professional development and active career planning.

The report contains five key recommendations:

  • The creation of a European Researcher Development Framework would provide a single European language describing researchers' skills and attributes and thereby facilitate mobility.
  • (EU Level) The European Commission should consider investing in making available a pan-European Researcher Development Framework to promote the importance of the professional development of European researchers
  • The European Commission should support a wider independent trial of the RDF
  • (national and institution level) Governments, research funders and research performing organisations should work together to offer researchers at all career levels adequate training and development means
  • (individual researcher) Researchers across Europe should take responsibility for their own professional development and reflect how to improve their own career possibility by using for example using a tool like the suggested European Research Development Framework

Commenting on the study, Martin Hynes, CEO, European Science Foundation said:

The continued progress of the European Research area and more acutely the development of researchers has always been top priority for us. This new study has revealed that within Europe there is a clear need for a European Researcher Development Framework which can aid researcher´s professional development. The adoption of the RDF, adapted as recommended in the report, would also be a great tool for supporting intersect oral mobility.

This project has been an important first step in identifying the potential opportunity of creating a pan-European professional development framework.

Janet Metcalfe, Chair and Head of Vitae commented:

The adoption of the Vitae Researcher Development Framework across Europe would support the aims of the European Charter and Code, specifically the principles relating to continuous professional development, career development, access to research training and continuous development and access to careers advice. It would also provide a common language for researchers to talk about their expertise and professional development.

For more information, please contact

Tom Reast, Kaizo
+44 (0) 207 3176 4721

About ESF
The European Science Foundation (ESF) is an independent, non-governmental organisation that promotes collaboration in scientific research, funding of research and science policy across Europe. Its members are 72 national funding and research-performing organisations and learned societies from 30 countries.

The report is available here.