Career Development Reviews for Fixed-Term Researchers

The guidance and resources on this webpage aims to:

  • help reviewees and reviewers to plan and hold constructive career conversations
  • provide advice for departments or faculties on setting up and running a local scheme

A Career Development Review (CDR) is a structured and confidential conversation about a researcher’s career development.  The focus of a CDR conversation is on supporting career planning and exploring personal career aspirations in any sector or in any role.  The conversation should identify career goals, opportunities to improve career prospects, routes to further career development and related skills and professional development or training objectives. 

Personnel Committee agreed in February 2022 that a stepped approach will be taken towards an institution-wide target that all fixed term researchers will be offered annual CDR conversations by 2025.  Each department or faculty is free to set up a scheme relevant to their staff that aligns with the agreed overarching principles below.  Please check with the HR administrator in your department or faculty to know more about the local scheme adopted.

Principles and Purpose of CDRs

The Purpose of CDR Conversations

The purpose of a CDR conversation is to support fixed-term researchers to take a proactive approach to their personal and career development, including accessing appropriate support and guidance. A constructive CDR conversation will:

  1. encourage the reviewee to express their own career aspirations, to plan for their next steps and to identify how to achieve their development goals and how these can be supported.
  2. be led by the reviewee and enable the reviewer to offer advice or ideas on the reviewee’s career development planning and to provide guidance on how relevant professional development and/or experience can be achieved within the current role.
  3. be a two-way process of exploration and reflection, supported by guidance from the reviewer.

The Principles of CDR Conversations

All departments/faculties are expected to have in place a scheme for CDR conversations for fixed-term research staff based on the principles below.

  1. Personnel Committee agreed career development principles on Promoting Good Conversations at Work (2019).
  2. The principles to which the University is a signatory in The Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers (2019)
  3. The University’s Concordat Action Plan 3.3 (2022), which states that the University will “Provide opportunities for all researchers to have review conversations focusing on their career at least annually, supported by institutional systems which capture professional development activity”.

Who is responsible for what?

The Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers (2019) states that:

To enable each of us to play our roles effectively and efficiently, please consult the guidance that applies to you:

  • Reviewees: fixed-term researchers
  • Reviewers: academics managers/PIs or senior colleagues
  • Departments or faculties (HR leads or HAFs)

Guidance for Reviewees

Your CDR conversation is your opportunity to take a pro-active, constructive approach to progressing your professional development and preparing for onward career steps. The conversation is an opportunity for you to:

  • review and assess your recent professional and career development activity share your career development ideas or plans with your reviewer, with a view to exploring a range of opportunities
  • listen to the suggestions and guidance received and consider these objectively
  • establish objectives and priorities for your career and personal development for the coming year and put these into action

Your responsibility is to engage actively in the conversation. To support you in preparing for the conversation, see the Guidance for Reviewees and Career Conversation Planner below.

CDR: What reviewees need to know

The Guidance Note for Reviewees provides tips on how to get the most from your CDR conversation, how to take a proactive, constructive approach to progressing your development towards your next career steps, as well as a quick overview of usual processes.

Career Conversation Planner

The Career Conversation Planner is a tool for you to use before and during the CDR conversation; The Planner is designed to be completed by you and shared with your reviewer prior to the meeting. Please check with your academic line manager / PI or HR administrator in your department or faculty on whether a modified template is used in your local review scheme.

Guidance for Reviewers

All fixed term researchers are expected to positively engage in an annual review with their academic manager/PI or another senior colleague in the University. The CDR conversation is an opportunity for reviewees to take a proactive, constructive approach to progressing their development towards a range of next career steps, supported by encouragement, guidance or suggestions from their reviewer. The review is not linked in any way to performance references, discipline, reappointment or promotion.

As a reviewer, your role is to:

  • Prepare for the CDR conversation by reading and considering the reviewee’s Career Conversation Planner (or equivalent).
  • Listen to the reviewee as they share their career thinking, enable them to lead the conversation and ask open questions.
  • Reflect on the reviewee’s career plans or ideas in an exploratory manner.
  • Encourage the reviewee to take charge of their career planning and guide the reviewee in identifying pathways to appropriate support and experience required to enable the reviewee to achieve objectives established.
  • Give information and advice when appropriate, including suggestions of who (else) your reviewee might usefully talk to for further career-related insights (including Careers Advisers at the Oxford University Careers Service).
  • Ensure that the CDR conversation stays focused and is constructive.

After the CDR conversation:

  • Create opportunities to ask the reviewee which development goals they are pursuing
  • Encourage the reviewee to update their Career Conversation Planner and offer to comment on the updates.
  • Keep the content of the CDR conversation confidential.

CDRs: What reviewers need to know

Please review the Guidance Note for Reviewees and Guidance Note for Reviewers, these notes will provide tips on how to encourage the reviewee to get the most from their CDR conversation and on your role in the process.

Guidance for Department or Faculty Administration

Personnel Committee agreed in February 2022 that a stepped approach will be taken towards an institution-wide target in which all departments or faculties will have a scheme for Career Development Reviews (CDR) for fixed-term researchers within one to three years.

Each department or faculty is free to set up a scheme relevant to their staff and aligns with the agreed overarching principles.

Local review schemes: A Flexible Approach

  • Initially, departments or faculties may elect to combine the CDR with their current Professional Development Review (PDR) or similar existing review mechanism.
  • Over the next three years, departments or faculties are encouraged to facilitate a system where the reviewees’ career journey is the key focus of the review meeting(s) and feedback on performance and objective-setting are the subject of regular semi-formal meetings held through-out the year.
  • The administrative processes for implementation of CDRs should be incorporated into existing procedures for reviews, suitably adjusted where required.
  • In accordance with the Concordat, CDR schemes must monitor the engagement of researchers and their managers with researcher Career Development Reviews.

Guidance Notes on CDRs

  • For those coordinating CDRs within departments please see Guidance Note for Heads of Department & Professional Support Staff.
  • Separate guidance notes for reviewees and reviewers are also available. These are provided in Word format to enable departments or faculties to amend the guides in accordance with local schemes, should they wish to do so.
  • A template Career Conversation Planner for reviewees to complete in advance of the CDR is also available in Word format, again to enable departments or faculties to amend the template in accordance with local schemes, should they wish to do so.
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