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 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 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. NIGMS encourages the use of IDPs at all training levels. The use of IDPs is evaluated in the grant application review process, and must be described in NIH Research Performance Progress Reports (NOT-OD-114-13), for programs designed to provide training and professional development opportunities. Examples of IDPs can be found on the websites of these organizations:
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