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Goal Setting with Individual Development Plans (IDPs)

All NIH-funded investigators must report on how Individual Development Plans (IDPs) are used on campus for the students and postdocs supported by their grants, in the annual progress report RPPR in section B, “Accomplishments.” NIH asks training programs to describe how IDPs are used on campus. Some fellowship applications also ask that an applicant complete an IDP for participation.

The School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) recently ran a workshop for graduate students and postdocs to encourage the use of IDPs, viewable here and in the video below, and the slides include sample language you might adapt for reporting.

IDPs are planning tools that help to break big goals down into smaller steps, to identify resources needed to achieve those steps, and to communicate the plan with mentors. For trainees, one good place to start is MyIDP, an online planning tool that links to Science Careers resources. Use of IDPs started with postdoctoral fellows decades ago and IDPs are now commonly used for almost everyone in research training. The process of self-assessment, goal setting, and resource identification—of research interests, strengths and weaknesses, and long-term objectives—helps to make clear the small steps needed now to achieve big outcomes later in research. Communicating those plans and goals lets a research advisor and other mentors identify and link to networks that can make it happen.

Please encourage all your graduate students and postdocs to complete an IDP as they arrive at SMHS, and plan to update it every six months (plans change!). As research mentors, encourage your students to share their plans with you and advisory committee members and use it to discuss how to prepare for research, professional development and career objectives. Remember to describe how IDPs are used at SMHS in your annual reports.

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