The Vitae Researcher Development Statement and Framework


The RDF/S is organised into four broad domains of attributes researchers require. Within each of the domains are three sub-domains and associated descriptors, which describe different aspects of being a researcher. The RDF also refers to the development of skills at different levels ranging from PhD students to Principal Investigators. This allows researchers themselves to identify areas requiring improvement and what is required to reach the next level.

Activities and training events are mapped to the RDF/S, so you can effectively target areas in which you want to develop your skills. Students enrolled on the MASTS PG Cert will have access to a training needs analysis tool based on the RDF/S. The tool will allow you to assess your current skill levels, identify areas for improvement and find out what sort of training is available to address that need. 

This Figure shows the Domains, Sub-domains and Categories within the Vitae RDF.  For more information on the RDF/S and full descriptions of each category please visit the Vitae website.

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The RDF Domains and Sub-Domains Domain


This domain contains the knowledge and intellectual abilities needed to be able to carry out excellent research. Components include:

A1 Knowledge Base

Researchers must develop a sound knowledge of their subject research area and the appropriate methods used, as well as the ability to access and manage information. Categories in this sub-domain are:

1. Subject knowledge

2. Research methods – theoretical knowledge

3. Research methods – practical application

4. Information seeking

5. Information literacy and management

6. Languages

7. Academic literacy and numeracy

A2 Cognitive Abilities

1. Analysing

2. Synthesising

3. Critical thinking

4. Evaluating

5. Problem solving

A3 Creativity

Researchers need to have an inquiring mind and understand the role of innovation and creativity in research, allowing them to constructively defend their research. Categories in this sub-domain are:

1. Inquiring mind

2. Intellectual insight

3. Innovation

4. Argument construction

5. Intellectual risk Domain


This domain contains the personal qualities, and self-management skills required to take ownership for, and control of, professional development. 

B1 Personal Qualities

There are many personal qualities that are advantageous when undertaking a period of sustained research. Categories in this sub-domain are:

1. Enthusiasm

2. Perseverance

3. Integrity

4. Self-confidence

5. Self-reflection

6. Responsibility

B2 Self-management

Throughout their career, researchers are required to be very well-organised. This includes the ability to manage their own time; to have a strategic approach to their research; to focus on the research project while maintaining a good work-life balance; respond to change and be largely self-motivated and self-reliant. Categories in this sub-domain are:

1. Preparation and prioritisation

2. Commitment to research

3. Time management

4. Responsiveness to change

5. Work-life balance

B3 Professional & Career Development

A large part of a researchers’ career is being able to develop and manage their career. Researchers must have an insight into the transferable nature of their abilities and regularly update their achievement and experience record. Categories in this sub-domain are:

1. Career management

2. Continuing professional development

3. Responsiveness to opportunities

4. Networking

5. Reputation and esteem


This domain contains the knowledge of the standards, requirements and professional conduct that are needed for the effective management of research. Components include: C1 Professional Conduct Researchers are required to abide by Health and Safety regulations and understand any legal and ethical requirements and code of conduct(s) appropriate to their discipline. Categories in this sub-domain are:

1. Health and safety

2. Ethics, principles and sustainability

3. Legal requirements

4. IPR and copyright

5. Respect and confidentiality

6. Attribution and co-authorship

7. Appropriate practice

C2 Research Management

In order for researchers to achieve the most out of their research, it is essential for them to have effective project management. This includes being able to set appropriate research goals and a programme of necessary steps to allow them to reach these goals by prioritising their activities, as well as assessing the risks. Categories in this sub-domain are:

1. Research strategy

2. Project planning and delivery

3. Risk management

C3 Finance, Funding and Resources

In the current climate, it is particularly important that researchers understand good financial management and make best use of the available resources, while also knowing the process for funding research. Categories in this sub-domain are:

1. Income and funding generation

2. Financial management

3. Infrastructure and resources


This domain contains the knowledge, understanding and skills needed to influence, engage with and impact on the academic, social, cultural and economic context. Components include:

D1 Working with Others

Researchers are required to interact constructively with colleagues, develop working relationships and be part of and/or build teams. They are also expected to develop and maintain professional networks. Categories in this sub-domain are:

1. Collegiality

2. Team working

3. People management

4. Supervision

5. Mentoring

6. Influence and leadership

7. Collaboration

8. Equality and diversity

D2 Communication and Dissemination

It is essential that researchers are able to communicate their research effectively, by constructing coherent arguments. Categories in this sub-domain are:

1. Communication methods

2. Communication media

3. Publication

D3 Engagement and Impact

Researchers should have knowledge of the global, economic, organisational and environmental contexts of research. It is important that they are aware of the mechanisms to support knowledge transfer and maximise the impact of research in academic, economic and societal contexts Categories in this sub-domain are:

1. Teaching

2. Public engagement

3. Enterprise

4. Policy

5. Society and culture

6. Global citizenship

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