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Your Development Needs Analysis

In essence, the DNA captures your training needs and how you and your supervisory team will ensure that these needs are met.

The form will include:

  • bulleted evaluative statements about your current competencies and skills
  • development activities, events, and opportunities that your supervisors will provide, based on their specialist experience and expertise
  • intended access to any of the University's developmental services that offer skills and knowledge development, advice and guidance, e.g. Researcher Development, Careers
  • any development events provided by the Postgraduate Researcher Framework that will be of benefit to you
  • the DNA would usually be reviewed at regular intervals, normally every six months, and at least once per year.


Why do you have to complete the DNA?

You need it... Doctoral studies cannot 'drift' or lack focus - you need a reasonable appraisal of your existing skills and knowledge, and you need a (supervisor-approved) course of action for gaining the competencies expected of such a high-level qualification.

We need it... The university wants to know what development you require so that we can support sourcing this internally or externally and determine whether this is delivered by your supervisory team or by another specialist. That's why the DNA is evaluated centrally to see if there is provision we need to develop and provide in a timely way.

Everyone needs it... The next generation of researchers needs to be confident that all future scholars and industry research experts have diligently and purposefully engaged in both initial and continuous professional development. The hallmarks of sound knowledge generation are integrity, planning and thoughtful implementation.

Development Needs Analysis Form

If you require this information in an alternative format, please contact our team. You can also read our Website Accessibility Statement.

DNA Essential Tips

  1. Your DNA must be agreed with your research supervisors. You should always have their agreement to undertake any development opportunities or events. Supervisors may stipulate that certain development needs to be mandatory and part of your progression. This can be made clear in your DNA but most importantly this needs to be stated in your monthly meeting records and in your Annual Progress Monitoring. Currently, there is no deadline to submit your DNA but this may change in future. Please bear in mind, it helps plan our researcher development offer for you and other researchers, however.
  2. You do not usually have to undertake all your identified development events in a single year but do plan (always with your supervisors) a schedule throughout your research degree journey. In this way you can meet your identified needs at the appropriate times.
  3. Faculties/supervisory teams are permitted by the university to stipulate minimum mandatory development requirements. These need to be completed as part of your progression to project completion and are non-negotiable.
  4. If there is no minimum mandatory requirement, it is strongly recommended that you access relevant development across all 4 Domains and their sub-domains during the life of your research degree. This enhances the range of your knowledge, skills and understanding as a well-rounded and highly-employable future professional. Whilst your previous work and study may have equipped you with many of these skills already, do consider if you need to be updated on any existing knowledge and skills - information, practices and methods can change rapidly. Our development events are listed with the RDF sub-domains given so that you can see what to target to give you good coverage.
  5. The DNA form draws directly on the RDF (see below). This means that using the online RDF Planner, which is free to use as a UoB doctoral researcher, can make this process much easier because you can gather evidence of your experience as you go and run a report on your existing actions to complete (so that you can select targets to share with your supervisors).
  6. Contact the Bradford Researcher Development Framework team if you'd like any advice and guidance on completing your DNA, development planning or opportunities at the University. If your supervisors want additional information, they can contact us too. Alternatively, they may wish to speak to their Faculty's Director of Postgraduate Research.

5 steps to complete your DNA

1. Familiarise yourself with the RDF wheel in the downloadable booklet, so that you get a feel for the sections that comprise the DNA form.

2. Download The RDF by Vitae (below). This is the full guide and you need to read through the descriptors for each subdomain. This will help you to begin thinking about the areas in which you already have skills and experience and others that you need to address during the life of your research studies in order to be a well-rounded researcher.

3. Complete a preliminary draft of the form as a focus for discussion with your supervisors. Try to do this before you meet them to finish the form. This will help them to see where you believe you're at, as well as being able to make discrete suggestions of where you may need to focus attention and resource.

On the form...

  • Subdomains = refers to the subdomains of the RDF (all the areas a researcher should be able to offer advanced skills in). Tip: reading the descriptors shown in the green outer circle of the wheel and featured in the full guide (The RDF by Vitae) will help generate reflections.
  • Current examples... = what can you already do? What skills and experience are you bringing from previous study or from your career? These can be listed in note form.
  • Areas requiring development... = this really means: what do you need to learn or improve on as part of becoming an ethical, accurate, conscientious researcher? Are these skills you need to acquire? Methods you need to learn? Experiences to which you need access?
  • Action(s) = what will you actually do? Are there steps or stages? Health & Safety mandatory training followed by lab protocol training? Secure funding as part of an internal bidding process before attending external development activities? Do you need to book, then attend, then implement?
  • Priority = once you have identified the area that needs development and have clear actions listed, what priority would you accord this? Is it something you need to attend/undertake immediately? Would it be better to wait until you're at a different stage of your studies? Essential and urgent or useful but non-urgent?
  • Date for review = when will you return to this subdomain to see how you have progressed?

4. With Your supervisors, finalise your actions, priorities, and review dates. Diarise when you will next revisit and re-prioritise.

5. Once you make sure that everyone in your supervisory team has a final 'signed-off' copy, send the DNA to the Bradford Researcher Development Framework team to complete the process. 

The Researcher Development Framework (RDF)

A national framework for researchers

The University, in line with the most of the sector, uses the RDF to inform its approach to researcher development, helping doctoral researchers become competent, adaptable and highly employable scholars.

There are four domains (the colour-coded quadrants). Every domain has three subdomains, each of which is further broken down into different descriptors of competencies (the green outer circle). The DNA that you complete relies on this articulation of the research skills, qualities and experiences required to become an independent researcher. You can download a full-size (printable) view of the Wheel. 

The RDF's 'phases'

Download the complete RDF below.

A 'cradle to grave' or 'full lifecycle' approach is taken by Vitae in its evaluation of researcher development. Phase one accounts for novice researchers, whilst Phase 5 helps internationally renowned, world-leading experts evidence their progress. It's important to know that successful completion of your doctorate does not mean reaching Phase 5 - far from it.

If you're using the RDF to gauge where you're at the very beginning of your doctoral studies, you may discover that even gathering experience or previous evidence to fit the Phase 1 criteria might be tricky.

This is completely OK. Some people might begin a doctorate having worked on a research project in industry or during another level of education. Others may have little-to-no previous experience. The whole point of the DNA is to look at where you are now and define a plan of action for your advanced upskilling, even if you are starting 'from scratch'.

The RDF in full

If you require this information in an alternative format, please contact our team. You can also read our Website Accessibility Statement.

Building a portfolio of evidence

Creating a portfolio of your development, with evidence of what was attended, when, and reflections on what you took away from the event or resource is not only essential evidence for progression but an integral part of a researcher's activities.

Why keep a portfolio?

  • to evidence your engagement and progress
  • to ready yourself for a research, or other professional, career
  • transcripts or certificates of internal events are not available, you need to compile evidence as you go
  • to remember events that contributed towards your DNA actions
  • to capture all the efforts and achievements you have accomplished.

Most professions, including public or private researcher careers, require a personal commitment to continuing professional development (CPD). It's best to develop good habits of evidencing training and development early.

The University offers access to PebblePad, which is an e-portfolio software for building your achievements and evidence but there are a range of ways to evidence your Personal Development Planning and achievements.  Your supervisory teams will have suggestions on how to maintain a CPD portfolio, as all academics document their career progress and development. You can also book an appointment with your PGR Career Consultant to discuss different methods for keeping a portfolio. Some people prefer notebooks and folders, others prefer mobile apps: it's up to you.