Spotlight on the RDF: “Responsiveness to change”

In one of our occasional series of spotlights, we take a closer look at a specific descriptor from the RDF.

In this series of “Spotlight on…” posts, we’ll be delving into the detail of the descriptors in Vitae‘s Researcher Development Framework (RDF).  Each one of the sixty-three descriptors is a characteristic of an excellent researcher, and we’ll be looking at how UoB PGRs can develop these characteristics.

Embed from Getty Images

In 2020 so far, we have all been responding to changing circumstances as the global pandemic unfolds and lockdowns are imposed and eased in different locations around the world.  Over the last 17 weeks or so, this blog has featured a number of posts from PGRs responding to this change so this feels like a good moment to take a look at the RDF descriptor responsiveness to change.  Rather than thinking about further development in this area, I want to recognise how far we have all come.

The RDF puts responsiveness to change in domain B (personal effectiveness) and sub-domain B2 (self-management) and the five phases of development for this descriptor are:

  1. Adapts approach when required to; seeks guidance and recognises risks.
  2. Adapts to changes; balances risk and opportunity. Knows when to seek advice and reassurance.
  3. Engages with change; expects change and is prepared for it, manages risk accordingly. Advises and reassures less experienced researchers.
  4. Embraces change and anticipates risk. Responds decisively, coaches and reassures others.
  5. Promotes change and contributes to institutional change initiatives; is willing to take reputational risk.

It feels like we’ve all taken a crash course in responsiveness to change over the last few months, so let’s take a look at some concrete examples of how we have applied knowledge, skills and behaviour in this area.  These examples can be used simply for us to take pride in our achievements, or in job applications and similar contexts that require us to demonstrate skills gained during a research programme.

Adapts approach

Seeks guidance

  • No doubt your supervisors have been key, but we have also been proactively seeking the information and guidance we need from all relevant sources.

Recognises risks

  • We’ve talked about risk management before, and despite the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic we can still apply these skills here – what are the risks for our research and how can we mitigate them?

Adapts to changes

  • By now, many of us will have successfully adapted to the situation.  In some cases, this will have required major changes to intended research activity (for example, conducting a systematic literature review instead of lab work), or to an entire research project.  Some will still be in the process of working through what these adaptations will mean in the longer term.

Balances risk and opportunity

  • As lockdown eases in the UK, it feels like we are balancing risk and opportunity every time we leave the house, but for those currently returning to lab work on-campus, this is also critical for their research.

Knows when to seek advice and reassurance

  • In these difficult times, it has been especially important for us to seek reassurance as well as advice and guidance.

As PGRs, we would normally expect to develop phases 1 and 2 of any particular descriptor, so I’ll stop there, but you may have examples which apply through higher phases as well.  My examples are necessarily generic, so feel free to add your own (generic or specific) examples below.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Helen Kara

Writing and research

PostGradual: The PhD Careers Blog

Taking PhD careers one tip at a time

Think: Research

Because there's always room for improvement

Research & Scholarship Skills

Handy hints for PhD students

Think Ahead Blog

from the Researcher Development team at the University of Sheffield

Jobs on Toast

Take the next step in your career - with Chris Humphrey, PhD


research education, academic writing, public engagement, funding, other eccentricities.

The Thesis Whisperer

Just like the horse whisperer - but with more pages

%d bloggers like this: