Action: Strongly encourage the use of individual development plans (IDPs) on all NIGMS-sponsored training and research awards.
At its best, research training is an intentional and purposeful activity that is the product of a thoughtful analysis of the background, interests and needs of each student and postdoctoral trainee. This includes developing a mentoring plan that assesses the needs and goals of each student and postdoc, describes short- and long-term career objectives, and identifies professional development activities needed to reach them. The individual development plan (IDP) is a tool to help in this planning process and also to facilitate communication between mentees and mentors. An IDP should be viewed as a dynamic document that is periodically reviewed and updated throughout an individual’s training. IDPs are of proven value at any stage, from the undergraduate to the postdoctoral level.
The concepts of mentoring plans and IDPs are not new, but recognition of their role and effectiveness in research training is fairly recent. The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) and the National Postdoctoral Association have been early proponents of the use of IDPs for postdoctoral career planning. Excellent examples of IDPs can be found on the Web sites of these organizations:
American Association for the Advancement of Science/Science Careers