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Independent Development Plans

The success of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers is significantly enhanced by establishing mentoring relationships with faculty. An instrument that can assist both faculty and protégés in developing a formal structure for the mentoring process is the Individual Development Plan (IDP). IDPs provide a structure for the identification and achievement of career goals.

A report made by a Working Group of the Advisory Committee to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director recommended “a call for IDPs for all NIH-supported graduate students and/or postdoctoral researchers.” NIH annual progress reports received on/after October 1, 2014 must include a section to describe how individual development plans (IDPs) are used to identify and promote career goals of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers associated with the award. The NIH provides specifc guidance on this requirement. The revised policy is being implemented to prepare students and postdocs better to participate successfully in evolving research and a research-related economy.

Next Steps

NIH will not require but strongly encourages institutions to develop and use IDPs for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers supported by NIH awards, regardless of their position title. Principal investigators should ensure that some structured training experience is provided for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, whether on training grants, fellowships, or research project grants. The Office of Graduate Training and Mentorship and the Office of Research and Engagement are collaborating to assist principal investigators, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers in meeting this requirement. Resources made available will include additional guidance information about IDP development and utility, training opportunities for investigators and directors of graduate studies, and training opportunities for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers to assist in reaching their developed goals.

Available Resources

The following are examples of IDPs:

For additional information, please contact Ernest L. Brothers, Associate Dean of the Graduate School, Director of the Office of Graduate Training and Mentorship, at ebrother@utk.edu.

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