School of Social and Political Science

Researcher Development Framework (RDF)


The Vitae Researcher Development Framework (RDF), is an internationally recognised framework for planning, promoting and supporting the personal, professional and career development of researchers in higher education.

It is an approach to researcher development, which aims to provide researchers with a universal language for communicating their capabilities.

RDF Structure

The RDF was created using empirical data, collected through interviewing researchers to identify the characteristics of excellent researchers (expressed in the RDF as 'descriptors').

The descriptors are structured into four domains and twelve sub-domains, 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.

About the Vitae Researcher Development Framework

Using the RDF to plan your own development

All SDO skills training activities are mapped against the RDF. This helps you to keep track of your development during your PhD. Keep a note of the training that you attend and use the skills in the framework as a 'check-list'.

Tracking attendance against the RDF will help to identify where your strengths lie and which areas you should focus on in your future development.

Download the full RDF (PDF) 

Domain A: Knowledge and Intellectual Abilities

Each sub-domain lists a range of skills focussed around a core objective. Within each skill, the RDF identifies between three to five phases, representing distinct stages of development or levels of performance within that descriptor.

Vitae Framework RDF Planner

A1: Knowledge Base

This sub-domain describes the knowledge, research methods and information management needed to do excellent research.

Subject Knowledge Demonstrating a theoretical knowledge and practical understanding of a research area and its wider context.
Research Methods: Theoretical Knowledge Understanding a range of research methodologies and their appropriate application and advising others.
Research Methods: Practical Application Identifying, using and developing appropriate techniques for research. Advising others.
Information Seeking Identifying, validating and using relevant information from a variety of sources. Advising others.
Information Literacy and Management Understanding, using and developing relevant information technologies for data management. Advising others.
Languages Displaying proficiencies in languages appropriate for research.
Academic Literacy and Numeracy Displaying communication and numeracy abilities appropriate for research and advising others.

A2: Cognitive Abilities

This sub-domain describes the intellectual abilities needed to do excellent research.

Analysing Using analytical abilities effectively to evaluate findings. Developing others.
Synthesising Effectively combining and seeing connections between information from a variety of sources.
Critical Thinking Thinking originally, developing and evaluating theoretical concepts and arguments.
Evaluating Monitoring, evaluating and assessing information and progress. Creating evaluation processes.
Problem Solving Developing and applying appropriate solutions to a range of projects. Challenging thinking and contributing to understanding.

A3: Creativity

This sub-domain describes the creative abilities and attributes needed to do excellent research.

Inquiring Mind Seeking new information, asking questions and inspiring curiosity. Being curious and eager to learn.

Intellectual Insight

Developing new insights, creating ideas, showing initiative and stimulating breakthroughs.
Innovation Developing and recognising the potential of new ideas. Driving and delivering innovation.
Argument Construction Developing rigorous, convincing and well evidenced arguments, and advising others.
Intellectual Risk Challenging the status quo. Questioning current practices and taking intellectual risk appropriately.
Domain B: Personal Effectiveness

Each sub-domain lists a range of skills focussed around a core objective. Within each skill, the RDF identifies between three to five phases, representing distinct stages of development or levels of performance within that descriptor.

Vitae Framework RDF Planner

B1: Personal Qualities

This sub-domain describes the personal attributes needed to be an excellent researcher.

Enthusiasm Being passionate about and motivated to do research.
Perseverance Being resilient, persevering in the face of obstacles. Chellenging and encouraging ideas.
Integrity Demonstrating and setting expectations for professional integrity and honesty in relation to research ethics and practice. Shaping policy.
Self-Confidence Being self-reliant, confident of own abilities and ideas. Seeking challenge, supporting and inspiring others.
Self-Reflection Reflecting on own abilities, seeking ways to improve. Striving for excellence and encouraging others.
Responsibility Being responsible for own actions, developing independence, taking responsibility and effectively delegating to others.

B2: Self-Management

This sub-domain describes the behaviours and attributes needed to be a committed and effective researcher.

Preparation and Prioritisation Planning effectively and preparing for the unexpected. Prioritising, seeing gaps and thinking strategically.
Commitment to Research Committing and showing dedication to achieving research excellence.
Time Management Using effective time management techniques. Responding flexibly and achieving timely delivery of projects. Advising others.
Responsiveness to Change Being flexible and adaptable to change. Managing risk, seeking guidance appropriately and advising others.
Work-Life Balance Planning and prioritising effectively to create an acceptable work-life balance. Managing pressure, seeking support appropriately and supporting others.

B3: Professional and Career Development

This sub-domain describes the knowledge and behaviours needed to take control of own professional development and reputation.

Career Management Actively owning and managing career progression. Presenting knowledge and competencies effectively. Developing career network and creating opportunities for others.
Continuing Professional Development Being committed to own development and that of others. Seeking opportunities to improve expertise. Having a realistic view of own employability.

Responsiveness to Opportunities

Being knowledgable about the range of employment opportunities. Creating and acting on opportunities to develop own career. Advising and championing others.
Networking Developing, maintaining and leading networks of individuals who can offer advice and access to opportunities.
Reputation and Esteem Establishing a reputation and being held in esteem as an excellent researcher and a trusted authority, Promoting the reputation of others.
Domain C: Research Governance and Organisation

Each sub-domain lists a range of skills focussed around a core objective. Within each skill, the RDF identifies between three to five phases, representing distinct stages of development or levels of performance within that descriptor.

Vitae Framework RDF Planner

C1: Professional Conduct

This sub-domain describes the knowledge, behaviours and attributes needed for appropriate professional conduct as a researcher.

Health and Safety Understanding health and safety issues. Shaping and operating responsible working practices.
Ethics, Principles and Sustainability Acting responsibly, conducting research ethically and in a sustainable way. Shaping policy.
Legal Requirements Understanding and being knowledgeable about legal requirements relevant to the research environment.
Intellectual Property Right and Copyright Understanding and upholding the principles of intellectual property rights relating to the use of research. Shaping policy.
Respect and Confidentiality Respecting the rights of colleagues and those participating in research, particularly in respect to confidentiality. Shaping policy.
Attribution and Co-Authorship Recognising the contribution of others and acknowledging collaborations appropriately. Setting expectations and shaping policy.
Appropriate Practice Understanding the significance of malpractice and behaving appropriately to avoid it. Setting expectations and shaping policy.

C2: Research Management

This sub-domain describes the knowledge and behaviours needed for the effective management of research projects.

Research Strategy Understanding and influencing the broader context of own research within the organisation, the economy and society.
Project Planning and Delivery Using project management techniques effectively to deliver timely results across a range of projects.
Risk Management Effectively identifying, assessing and managing risks and shaping policy.

C3: Finance, Funding and Resources

This sub-domain describes the knowledge needed of the processes for the effective management of finance, funding and resources.

Income and Funding Generation Being Knowledgeable about relevant funding sources and mechanisms for obtaining income. Generating income and supporting others' applications. Influencing policy.
Financial Management Understanding and using financial management techniques and systems effectively. Advising others and influencing policy.

Infrastructure and Resources

Using and allocating resources efficiently. Understanding and using local reporting and administrative systems.
Domain D: Engagement, Influence and Impact

Each sub-domain lists a range of skills focussed around a core objective. Within each skill, the RDF identifies between three to five phases, representing distinct stages of development or levels of performance within that descriptor.

Vitae Framework RDF Planner

D1: Working with Others

This sub-domain describes the attitudes and behaviours to work effectively with other people through different relationships.


Showing consideration and building productive relationships with and between colleagues for collective benefit.


Team Working Working with, managing and leading colleagues in a constructive way. Acknowledging the contribution of others.
People Management Supervising, motivating and inspiring others. Prioviding support and encouragement to achieve the desired results.
Supervision Providing support and feedback to less experienced researchers. Developing own and others' supervisory practice.
Mentoring Developing others and empowering them to realise their potential. Shaping mentoring strategy.
Influence and Leadership Influencing and leading others. providing direction and encouraging the contribution of others.
Collaboration Working with others, building productive relationships and collaborations across boundaries.
Equality and Diversity Understanding and respecting difference and diversity. Providing equality of opportunity for others to achieve their potential.

D2: Communication and Dissemination

This sub-domain describes the knowledge and behaviours relating to effective communication and publication through a variety of methods and media.

Communication Methods Effectively communicating concepts, arguments, knowledge and information to a range of people.
Communication Media Understanding and effectively using a range of tools and techniques for communicating information, including internationally.
Publication Understanding and using appropriate publication routes for communicating to different audiences.

D3: Engagement and Impact

This sub-domain describes the knowledge, behavoiur and attributes needed to engage with, impact and influence teaching, society, culture and the economy.


Teaching and informing others through a range of styles and techniques. Developing research-informed teaching and mentoring others.

Public Engagement Enabling public awareness and understanding of research and its impact. Having a public presence.
Enterprise Taking an innovative and enterprising approach to research, Valuing knowledge exchange. Recognising the potential impact of research and advocating the application of research. Recognising wider opportunities.
Policy Understanding the value of research-informed policy-making and contributing to it.
Society and Culture Understanding the impact of research. Guiding others and actively seeking ways to enrich society and the environment.
Global Citizenship Recognising own role as a global citizen and contributing to the wider international community.
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