Stanford University
Postdoctoral Scholars

FAQs and Resources for Faculty


What is an IDP? What is a tracking system?

The Postdoctoral Individual Development Plan (IDP) is a guide that supports thoughtful, comprehensive and individualized postdoctoral training. IDPs include an assessment of skills and progress, identify short- and long-term goals with associated resources, and clarify the expectations of both postdoc and faculty mentor.

The IDP:

  • Establishes a foundation for a solid working relationship with your postdoc;
  • Sets clear expectations;
  • Assesses progress, skills and developmental needs; and
  • Sets research, training and professional development goals and plans for achieving them.

The tracking system maintained by the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs tracks the meetings and documents the dates on which postdocs discuss their IDP with their faculty mentors. The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs does not collect the forms. A complete training record of IDP meetings will be accessible by faculty for inclusion with their grant proposals and progress reports.

What is the connection between IDPs and federal policy?

The National Academies and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have identified IDPs as a critical component of postdoctoral training. The NIH policy states:

NIH encourages institutions to develop Individual Development Plans (IDPs) for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers (including scholars, trainees and fellows, and individuals in other postdoctoral positions) supported by NIH awards by October 2014. The IDPs should be broadly implemented for all graduate students and postdoctoral researchers supported by NIH…

[As of] Oct. 1, 2014… NIH will begin to encourage grantees to report the use of those IDPs on the progress report, regardless of the type of NIH grant that is used for support.

Although not yet a formal NIH requirement, those who don't adopt the IDP locally now are likely to be at a disadvantage at their next competitive review. Note that this policy applies to all trainees supported by NIH funds, whether training grants, R01s or other.

Is language available for me to include in my grant applications and program reports?

Yes. In this competitive funding environment, training grant applications that do not explicitly include the use of IDPs are not likely to be funded. Furthermore, National Institutes of Health (NIH) policy now asks that training grant progress reports "include information to document that IDPs are used to help manage the training for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in the progress report under 5.1.6 Progress Report Summary, A. Training Program."

We strongly recommend inclusion of language similar to the following in ALL individual and institutional training grant proposals and progress reports:

Stanford requires that all postdoctoral scholars complete an IDP and meet with their faculty mentors within three months of arrival, and annually thereafter, to discuss their progress, set professional development goals, and develop action plans. A structured, systematic IDP program is in place for all postdocs and Bioscience PhD candidates. This program was developed through extensive consultation with multiple groups of faculty, postdocs, students, and staff. Standardized IDP forms based on those in use for several years comprehensively assess each trainee's academic, professional, and career progress, and support a clear action plan toward achieving goals and milestones in those areas. Resources supporting the IDP include programs and staff in the Career Centers and the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs. IDP meeting dates are recorded in a centralized database from which faculty can generate complete records to include in NIH progress reports. Resources supporting the IDP include programs and staff in the Career Centers, the Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education, and the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs.

I'm already doing this. Do I have to use this new tracking system?

Yes. The new tracking system builds upon what you have already been doing to ensure all postdocs have up-to-date IDPs and at least one formal IDP meeting annually focusing on their developmental goals. Stanford's IDP and database:

  • Ensure regularity and uniformity of the progress review and discussion topics for all postdoctoral trainees;
  • Satisfy the new National Institutes of Health (NIH) policy encouraging broad implementation of a structured IDP program; and
  • Provide an auditable trail that minimizes the burden on Principal Investigators.

NIH encouragement of a broadly implemented IDP program implies that non-compliant trainees and PIs jeopardize funding for all NIH grants, not just the grants supporting those non-compliant researchers. Your participation ensures that your own training record is available to you for grant proposals, progress reports, and your own use.

Are there consequences for not completing the IDP process?

In light of the intrinsic benefits of the IDP, the university-wide requirement, and the funding requirements, we expect this to be a rare occurrence, and you and your mentor will be reminded of its value.

Both postdocs and faculty face adverse consequences in that failure to complete the IDP process by the designated deadlines will jeopardize Stanford's competitiveness for NIH funding and other federal funding. A record of IDP meetings is required to support any postdoc term-limit extension requests.

Can I ask my postdoc to use a form I created?

We recommend using these forms because they have been developed with input from faculty and postdocs at Stanford, and include sections on self-assessment, career exploration and goal setting. If you would like to use an alternative form, that form can be submitted to the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs at postdocidp[at]stanford[dot]edu for review and approval.

What is the timeline for a postdoc to complete an IDP?

New postdocs must complete their IDP and meeting within three months of their appointment start date, and annually thereafter.

My postdoc doesn't want to share the completed IDP with me. Should I see it or receive a copy?

Your postdocs will develop their draft IDP before meeting with you, and ideally share that draft with you prior to the meeting. However, the IDP is a personal document, and postdocs are encouraged, but not required, to share it ahead of time. You should speak openly about your preferences and expectations regarding the IDP document and meeting. In the event of a conflict regarding sharing the written IDP, you might consider asking for specific subsections, or a general outline, in lieu of the whole document.

How do I prepare for this meeting?

Review the completed IDP (see above) and note questions, differences of opinion, and suggestions before the planning meeting. If your postdoc chooses not to share the IDP ahead of time, you can review the IDP forms here. It may help to think about your postdoc's progress, competencies and areas for improvement in light of his/her research and professional goals. You might also review the resources listed below for any that are relevant for your postdocs's needs.

How will the planning meeting proceed? Who leads the conversation?

Using the completed IDP as a guide, postdocs are encouraged to lead the discussion of their self-assessment, goals and plans. The two of you work collaboratively to identify specific actions and resources to help your postdoc achieve his/her research and professional goals. Your perspective on your postdoc, Stanford and the larger world is invaluable for your postdoc's success, and this is a time to share it.

I have a postdoc who is under-performing. How do I discuss this?

Honest, constructive feedback and supportive coaching are important during the postdoctoral training period. The structure of the IDP supports an objective conversation focused on goals and plans, creating an opportunity to give clear feedback about specific performance issues.

I feel unqualified to have conversations about career fields and professional development outside my area of expertise.

There is no expectation that any faculty member provides all the guidance that a postdoc needs. Multiple resources are available to support your goals, and those of your postdocs. You can:

Why must we verify the IDP meetings occurred?

Planning meetings are documented to:

  • Ensure that all trainees have at least one planning meeting per year that focuses on their research and professional development;
  • Make the most out of postdoctoral training and mentoring relationships; and
  • Comply with a university requirement that may impact NIH and other funding decisions.

Stanford's IDP provides an auditable trail and reporting structure that minimizes the burden on Principal Investigators and provides valuable training records for grant applications and progress reports.

When and how do I verify the meeting?

After the planning meeting, postdocs will record the date the meeting occurred via an online form. You need only respond to the subsequent email to confirm the IDP meeting took place.

New postdocs should complete the documentation within three months of arriving at Stanford; all other postdocs annually.

Who will see the IDP? What about the meeting verification form?

The IDP belongs to the postdoc, and your discussion remains private between you and your postdoc. Postdocs are encouraged to share their IDPs with other mentors as well. The meeting verification form records only the date the meeting occurred; the completed IDP and discussions remain private.

The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs administers the IDP meeting verification system, including confirmation and follow-up emails and necessary reporting. The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs sees only the postdoc's identifying information, faculty member's name and email, the date the meeting occurred, and the faculty member's confirmation of the date. The content of your IDP and your discussions are not documented.

I am busy and/or travel frequently. How do I find time for this?

You share responsibility with your postdoc to meet and discuss the IDP before the deadlines. The IDP is intended to be a guide supporting postdoctoral training at Stanford, and is thus beneficial to both of you in setting clear expectations, generating constructive feedback and ensuring that plans are carefully considered. You can hold your IDP planning meetings anytime. Consider holding your planning meeting by phone or video conference, if necessary, when abroad. Failure to discuss the IDP by the deadline may endanger Stanford's ability to receive NIH training and research grants.

Do I need to complete IDPs and meet with graduate students too?

Yes, you will follow substantially the same process. Please consult the Office of Graduate Education website for the forms, process details and deadlines relevant for students.


Individual Development Plan Guides


Skills Development

Research Skills and Scientific Thinking

Writing and Oral Communication

Professionalism and Interpersonal Skills

Vice Provost for Graduate Education

Project Management

Managing Projects Large and Small (Harvard Business Essentials). Stanford School of Medicine Career Center library.

Stanford Center for Professional Development "Advanced Project Management" course ($400/course for Stanford.)

Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Stanford Biodesign - Biodesign Network, Fellowships, community, networking, resources and facilities for biomedical innovators

Stanford Ignite - Stanford GSB faculty lead project-based mini-course on bringing concepts to commercial reality

StartX - community, resources, inspiration, mentoring and funding for entrepreneurs

Career Prep and Practice

Curricula for Careers in Academia

  • Career Foundations: Academia (September panel)
  • INDE 231A: Career Transitions: Academia (Fall Quarter)
  • INDE 231B: Career Prep & Practice: Academia (Spring Quarter)

INDE 239: Preparation and Practice for Biotechnology Business and Finance

INDE 255A & B: Health Policy, Finance and Economics

School of Medicine Career Center Career Discussion Groups

Biosciences Internship Program

Biosciences Event Calendars - speakers, professional development and career development events

Resources for Career Development

Stanford School of Medicine Career Center

Vice Provost for Graduate Education (VPGE)

Innovation and Entrepreneurship

  • Stanford Biodesign - Biodesign Network, Fellowships, community, networking, resources and facilities for biomedical innovators
  • Stanford Ignite - Stanford GSB faculty lead project-based mini-course on bringing concepts to commercial reality
  • StartX - community, resources, inspiration, mentoring and funding for entrepreneurs

Career Prep and Practice


Questions, comments or feedback? Please submit a HelpSU ticket by selecting "Central Office Issues" and "Postdoctoral Affairs", or email postdocidp[at]stanford[dot]edu.


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