Since 2014, the NIH has required annual progress reports to include a description of whether academic institutions make use of the Individual Development Plan (IDP) or not.
An IDP is an organizational tool designed to help trainees in science define and pursue their career goals. Furthermore, the IDP can also serve as a mechanism to enhance communication between mentors and their mentees regarding career development.
Our article published in the June 2018 edition of Nature Biotechnology asks, “How useful is the IDP?” There is little data on how the IDP actually affects trainees in terms of identifying their goals and career objectives.
While many institutions require graduate students to submit an IDP on a regular basis, it is unclear how this activity impacts communication with mentors. We emphasize the importance of obtaining more data on how institutions, individual trainees, and individual faculty members utilize the IDP. Ultimately, we believe that the IDP can be a useful tool for exploring both academic and non-academic careers but only if used appropriately.