Development Needs Analysis

What is the DNA?

Postgraduate Researchers are required to annually assess their current and future skills development needs. The Development Needs Analysis (DNA) process helps you to do this.

Successful and timely completion of your research degree will depend on developing a mixture of subject-specific skills, intellectual skills, such as critical thinking, and more generic skills, like communication and enterprise. Many of these skills will also be important in your future life, whatever career or life choices you make.

The (DNA) form uses Vitae’s Researcher Development Framework (RDF) to help you think about your current skills, pinpoint gaps in your knowledge, and identify areas for future development. The RDF articulates the knowledge, behaviours and attitudes of researchers, from postgraduates to established academic leaders and is endorsed by Research Councils UK.

There are four sections to the form, based on the RDF domains. Use the sections to outline your development needs for the year in each area.

You do not have to tick off each of the the skill descriptors in the RDF diagram.  Instead, focus on a few key areas each year. For example, in your first year you might want to focus more on developing critical analysis skills. In your final year, publishing might be more of a priority.

The form is most useful if used as part of a reflective conversation with your supervisor. They will be able to advise on appropriate skills development activities and suggest areas of focus, epecially for new researchers. At the end of the form is a summary sheet to outline your specific development plans.

You can complete the boxes in a number of ways- a bullet point list, a diagram, or a longer paragraph. We've prepared an example form to show some of the different ways you can complete it.

The DNA is not just for new researchers!

It is important to repeat the process of discussing your skills with your supervisor each year that you are at Birmingham so that you can get a fresh picture of your skills development needs.

More information

We’ve prepared a frequently asked questions document on the DNA which you can download below. The Let's Get Started induction workshop also contains more information on the DNA process, or you can view a prezi containing more information for supervisors.