Why and how was the RDF developed?

The professionalisation of researchers

In the early 2000s there was a growing requirement to establish the career of ‘researcher’ as a valued profession, evidenced, for example, by the Roberts Review and the European Charter and Code. (And, more recently, by the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers, commonly known as the Researcher Development Concordat,) The key challenge was a lack of clarity about the characteristics of an effective researcher and what constitutes a research job or career.[1]  Alongside this there was an absence of recognition – even among researchers themselves – of research as a profession and researchers as professionals

Vitae’s response to these challenges was to create the Vitae Researcher Development Framework (RDF) in close collaboration with the higher education sector and other wider stakeholders. The RDF is a framework that describes the characteristics (skills, knowledge, behaviours and attributes) of an effective researcher.

These characteristics, expressed in the framework as ‘descriptors’ are structured into four domains and twelve subdomains, encompassing the knowledge, intellectual abilities, techniques and professional standards to do research, as well as the personal qualities, knowledge and skills to work with others and ensure the wider impact of research.  Read more about the structure of the RDF here.

RDF at angle

How was the RDF developed?

The RDF is grounded in research. It was created through interviews and focus groups with over 100 researchers in addition to literature reviews, sector wide consultations, and additional expertise from specialists and stakeholders. Interview data was analysed and the results were validated by an external advisory group of expert, established researchers, leading to the identification of the characteristics of effective researchers. 

Within an iterative, interpretive design, the resulting framework captures the knowledge, behaviours and attributes that the higher education sector, overall, has identified as significant for researchers. Therefore the core of the Framework has been determined and defined by the research profession and validated by stakeholders, such as employers and funders.

The development of the RDF was based on a number of guiding principles which are shown in the diagram below in order to ensure that the RDF works for all researchers whatever their career path or trajectory.

  RDF guiding principles

Who is the Researcher Development Framework for?

  • Researchers – to evaluate and plan their professional development
  • Principal Investigators and supervisors of researchers - in their role supporting the development of researchers
  • Researcher developers, trainers, human resources specialists, careers advisors, senior managers and others – in planning and providing support to researchers
  • Policy makers funders and other organisation – to inform and reenforce policy and strategy relating to researchers
  • Employers – to provide insight into the unique blend of researchers’ skills and to enable exploration of the benefits researchers can bring to their organisation.

[1] See The Research Career Mapping Tool Report, CRAC: 2006