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Individual Development Plan (IDP)

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The Individual Development Plan (IDP) is a communication tool and framework aimed at improving the mentoring relationship between postdocs and their faculty advisors. The IDP is a document, completed by the postdoc and reviewed with their faculty mentor that defines both short- and long-term goals and how to achieve them. It is intended to cover not just scientific goals, but also career and professional development with the hope that this will enable postdocs to become more proactive in their own career development.

All Postdocs at Penn are required to complete an IDP or equivalent performance appraisal with their PI/Mentor yearly at the beginning of each appointment year and attend a minimum required contact hours of Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training per career stage. More information can be found in the Penn Policy for Postdoctoral Trainees, under the Obligations and Responsibilities section.

What IDP template should I use?

Biomedical postdocs in the Perelman School of MedicineSchool of Veterinary MedicineSchool of Dental MedicineSchool of Nursing, and The Department of Biology at the School of Arts & Sciences should use the Office of Biomedical Postdoctoral Programs (BPP) IDP template.

For all remaining Penn postdocs there is no single recommended IDP at this time, however, the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs has assembled a list of IDP resources and templates to consider when starting the process.

IDP templates and resources:

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Related FAQs

What is an Individual Development Plan (IDP)?

An Individual Development Plan (IDP) refers to a structured document outlining the professional and career development goals of a postdoctoral researcher. IDPs are typically designed to help postdocs identify their strengths, weaknesses, career aspirations, and areas for improvement.

Establishing clear expectations and setting goals with a clear plan for achieving them are critical to a productive postdoctoral experience. Therefore, at the beginning of the appointment, faculty mentors should work with their postdocs to complete an IDP.

An IDP should:
– Set clear short-term, mid-term, and long-term training and development goals.
– Create a written action plan for the postdoc’s individual goals, including career objectives and professional development needs.
– Establish clear expectations.
– Identify and use resources to help postdocs achieve their goals.
– Serve as a communication tool between the mentor and the postdoc to have open and direct dialogue.

Are Individual Development Plans (IDP)s required?

IDPs for biomedical postdocs are required. It is strongly encouraged that all postdocs complete an IDP with the faculty mentor. Faculty mentors in the following schools are required to submit their postdocs completed IDP to The Office of Biomedical Postdoctoral Programs (BPP).

Perelman School of Medicine
Penn Nursing
Penn Dental
School of Arts & Sciences, Biology Department

How are IDPs connected to 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.

How do I address evaluation and performance assessment?

It is expected that postdocs undergo a review of their performance on an annual basis. A written evaluation should be prepared and delivered to each postdoc by their faculty mentor. This is often provided through the structure of an Individual Development Plan (IDP). Criteria for such evaluations will vary according to the nature of the position and the department or center in which it is located. Goals and objectives, as well as the criteria for annual evaluations, should be communicated to the postdocs at the time of initial hire and at the start of each succeeding year. Training and professional development workshops attended should be documented within the annual evaluation.

What is the role of the Faculty Mentor?

Mentors’ responsibilities include: (i) developing in consultation with the postdoc a mutually satisfactory research project or scholarly program; (ii) encouraging postdocs to present their work and to publish their results in a timely fashion; (iii) encouraging postdocs to acquire and enhance their knowledge and technical skills as dictated by their current and future needs; (iv) arrangement and oversight of teaching opportunities as appropriate to their discipline and program; (v) encouraging postdocs to apply for training and research support as appropriate; (vi) meeting regularly with their postdocs to discuss progress in their research; (vii) providing an annual review of performance that includes a discussion of the individualized development plan (IDP) or equivalent performance document; (viii) ensuring that postdocs are aware of University policies regarding postdoctoral training and are instructed about research policies of the University; and (ix) providing career counseling.

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