What is an IDP?

At Oregon State University, mentors are expected to work with all new Postdoctoral Scholars to establish an Individual Development Plan (IDP), and this document must be submitted to the Office of Postdoctoral Programs for approval before the end of the third month of hire. The IDP serves as a communication tool between postdoc and mentor(s), and provides a plan that identifies both mentor and mentee responsibilities and expectations, professional development needs, and career goals.

Two reports (the NIH Biomedical Research Workforce Report and the NIGMS Strategic Plan) have brought renewed attention to the value of career planning for scientists. IDPs are a particularly useful tool for assisting in the career development of science PhDs. In response, the interactive, web-based tool myIDP was launched in September 2012 to help postdocs set long-term and short-term career goals.

If it is in alignment with the postdoc scholar’s IDP, it is possible for postdoc scholars to take courses at OSU to acquire skills and expertise in areas beyond that of the immediate research topic. This includes the 18-credit Graduate Certificate in College and University Teaching (GCCUT). Postdoc scholars are eligible for a tuition benefit. Please consult with the Office of Human Resources, if you are interested. The tuition reduction benefit is not available to postdoc fellows.

How to create an IDP

A good IDP is not a one size fits all document; it needs to be tailored to the specific aptitudes and goals of the postdoc as well as the laboratory and project that is funding the postdoctoral opportunity. Mentors and postdocs should plan on devoting significant time to a collaborative effort to produce the IDP. The OPP recommends following these steps:

  1. The Mentor(s) and the postdoctoral Scholar should become familiar with the Postdoctoral Core Competencies (see below). The postdoc should complete a self-assessment of skills, experiences, goals and interests using the Competency Checklist.

    Core Competencies — Oregon State University endorses the six core competencies for postdoctoral scholars and fellows established by the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA). As noted by the NPA, in an era of increasing complexity for the research enterprise, postdoctoral scholars and fellows pursue professional opportunities not only in academia, but also in industry, government, nonprofits and entrepreneurship. These six core competencies offer a framework for defining specific professional development needs for individuals based on their personal goals, aptitudes and prior experience.

    Download the complete NPA Core Competencies Document.

  2. The postdoc should then write a first draft of the career goals and research activities sections in the IDP template and make an initial attempt to fill out the objectives, activities, and postdoc responsibility sections of the IDP template. It is important to note that these objectives should be oriented to the professional development of the postdoc to meet career goals.
  3. The mentor(s) and postdoc should meet in person to go over the postdoc's initial contributions to the IDP. At the same time, the mentor(s) should share their expectations for how the postdoc will be trained in laboratory and/or project that is funding the postdoctoral opportunity. Pay particular attention to the Data Access and Publication Agreement section. During this meeting or in a subsequent meeting, they should complete the IDP template.
  4. The IDP should be signed and dated by the mentor(s) and the postdoc and sent as either as a hard copy via campus mail or as an email attachment to [email protected]. The OPP will review and approve the IDP.

The Annual Report

Before the end of the first and second years of the postdoctoral appointment, the mentor(s) and postdoc should meet in person again for an annual review based on the IDP using the Annual Progress Report Template with particular attention to accomplishments, areas that still need attention, and responsibilities by both parties to address the needs. A written version of the evaluation should be prepared by the mentor(s), signed and dated by the mentor(s) and postdoc, and sent to [email protected]. If appropriate, the IDP may also be revised at this time, and updates should be included in the report. The annual report must be approved by OPP prior to reappointment.