The 10 development days: your questions and concerns answered:


What are the expectations of funders in relation to the 10 days development?

It’s an opportunity: Although described as a ‘requirement’ the 10 days really are an opportunity for you to invest in yourself and your career. They enable you to confidently take time away from your normal duties to develop your professional competencies and gain experience to support your future career in whatever path you choose to take.  

It's a requirement and expectation: The 10-day requirement is laid out in The Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers, to which Imperial College London is a signatory. The Concordat states that Researchers must “Take ownership of their career, identifying opportunities to work towards career goals, including engaging in a minimum of 10 days professional development pro rata per year”. 

What do I need to do to fulfil the expectations of the College?

The College expects all research staff to fulfil the requirements of the Concordat which states that researchers should: “Take ownership of their career, identifying opportunities to work towards career goals, including engaging in a minimum of 10 days professional development pro rata per year.

This will involve proactively engaging with Annual Review Conversations (ARC) with your PI/Line manager and using tools such as our planning documents to ensure that you take full advantage of a wide variety of development opportunities.

What is expected of my PI/ line manager to fulfil the expectations of the College?

The College expects all managers of Research staff to fulfil the requirements of the Researcher Development Concordat which states that they must:

  1. “Allocate a minimum of 10 days pro rata, per year, for their researchers to engage with professional development, supporting researchers to balance the delivery of their research and their own professional development. “ 
  2. “Identify opportunities, and allow time (in addition to the 10 days professional development allowance), for their researchers to develop their research identity and broader leadership skills, and provide appropriate credit and recognition for their endeavours.” 

The College expects managers to engage in the Annual Review Conversation (ARC) process which includes having a development conversation with you at least once every twelve months and supporting you to reflect and use these 10 days for your development.

Your manager may also have laid out planned or intended development activities for you as  research staff employed on research grants. We expect them to share any such proposals with you (where relevant).  

What is a ‘development activity’?

A development activity is anything that is not part of your normal work duties and expectations and that will benefit you and your career in both the short and long term.

The Researcher Development Concordat gives examples such as “… attending a training course or workshop, workplace shadowing, participating in a mentoring scheme (as mentor or mentee), committee membership, participating in policy development, public engagement, or knowledge exchange activities.”

I’m not sure what my long-term career plans are, so how can I plan and prioritise development activities?

If you don’t have long-term plans, then focus on skills that will serve you well in any career path. e.g. leadership or communication skills.

If you are stuck with your career planning, then you can use your 10 development days to engage in career planning workshops or coaching that may help you to work out your next career move. Your career plans and ambitions will change over time, so ensure that you revisit your thinking at least annually and use your Annual Review Conversation and our reflective planning tools to help you. As a starting point, see what other researchers have said about how they used their 10 development days in our collection of videos.

I don’t have time to attend training courses.

This is a normal feeling amongst researchers, and it can feel like a lot of pressure to take time away from normal work duties. There are a few ways of looking at or reframing this: 

  • Try not to think of your 10 development days as simply attending training courses – development activities are far broader than that, and you are probably already engaged with some of these activities without realising it e.g. are you on an events organising committee? Do you regularly meet with a mentor? You can also find many opportunities that are self-paced to fit in around your other commitments. For example, our Researcher Wellbeing materials and the Academic's Success Guide, can be worked through systematically as and when you have time. 
  • Remember that some of the training you may attend will be hugely beneficial for you effectively meeting the requirements of your job and so you can be reassured that there will be indirect benefits in your ability to carry out your current role. 
  • Consider reframing your view of the value and urgency of the time taken out to spend on your career development. Think of it as well spent time to ‘sharpen the tools in your toolbox’. You may find that without this development time, you will become less motivated and less productive and efficient. On the flip side, most researchers report that time away from their normal work to spend on development activities enables them to see their priorities more clearly, become more efficient and more productive. 
  • Remember: you don’t have to take a block of 10 days from your normal activities. These days can be spread throughout the year at key points of need and equate to just over an hour a week through the year.  
  • Can you name the causes of you feeling overstretched and without enough time? Take a look at our time management and prioritisation advice and course. These may help you to relieve some of the pressure on your time. 
  • Speak to your line manager or PI – they may be able to help you to re-prioritise some of the tasks that you feel are more urgent than your development. 
If I were advising an ECR who felt too busy to take time away, I would put them in contact with the ECRs who have completed the 10 days and had a positive experience. I would also emphasize the importance and benefits of a refresh by taking advantage of the 10 development days. Prof Amin Hajitou, Professor in the Department of Brain Sciences
Leadership skills training is absolutely necessary for any type of future success and personal satisfaction. I personally view it as part of the job, not time away from the job. Dr Maria Papathanasiou, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemical Engineering
I always felt that I didn't have much time to do training, and so that's why I was looking on the internet and then trying to do shorter things rather than spending a full day. I did the training that really was helpful for me at the time. For example, I was a lab manager and for that I needed to understand more about health and safety and first aid, so I did training that was specific to my work and, my activities at that specific time. Dr Dorian Haci, MintNeuro (former Postdoc in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering)


I don’t feel I need to develop any particular skills at the moment.

You may feel that you are making good progress in your current role right now, so think about mid- and long-term plans: are you likely to take on leadership and management responsibilities in the future? If so, leadership training will always be beneficial. Do you want to develop your independence? If so, perhaps spending time developing your networks, networking skills or meeting with a mentor can help you to start developing your visibility and reputation for the next phase of your career.

Whatever you are doing, the people and landscape around you are always changing and so there will always be something useful for you to learn. Work through our reflective development planners as they may give you some ideas of areas to develop.

I work part time: Do I have to do 10 days of training every year?

If you are part time you can pro-rata your 10 days, so if you currently work 0.5 FTE, then you should plan five days of development time each year. Remember that the development days aren’t just about attending training courses. Take a look at our ideas for development activities that are not formal training courses

I don’t have the budget for attending training and events that will develop the skills I want to enhance.

This can cause problems, particularly when funding for training has not been included in the grant that funds you. Here are some quick tips as well as some experiences from other researchers: 

  • Ask to see the proposal and costings for the grant that funds you. Look for any budget for staff training and development and find out whether your development activity is eligible. 
  • Ensure that any grants you are written in to in future, where possible, include budget for development activities. 
  • Ask your Head of Department whether there is a discretionary budget that you can apply for. Be ready to have a convincing reason to attend and explain the benefits to you, your career, and your department. 
  • Contact the training provider and ask if they offer discounts, scholarships, or bursaries to attendees from higher education. 
  • Contact your learned society (or join one) to get access to training and travel scholarships. 
  • If it is an externally provided training, look for alternatives run internally by PFDC or POD, or request that they run something similar, if you believe it would be of interest to many people.  
  • Ask your PI or line manager whether they have a K account or ‘soft funds’ account (which sits outside normal departmental or contract budgets) that you can apply to use.  These are often discretionary budgets that your PI has from consultancy work, for example. 

What a video to hear how other researchers have accessed funding to undertake development activities.

"In terms of money, because Imperial was facilitating my public engagement activities, they provided the training and consumables that were required. It came from the societal engagement unit at Imperial: they paid for the art exhibit that we prepared." - Dr Pavani Cherukupally, MIT (former Postdoc in the Department of Chemical Engineering)

"Sometimes you may not have the costs built into your grant so your PI might not be able to sponsor you to go. Increasingly conferences now have online formats meaning you can present your work without travelling. I approached my departmental head, because there was no funding on the grant I was on to pay for me to attend a conference. It was a bit of a one-off, but I got funding from the department just by asking. I think it's worth highlighting this because, generally, they were willing to help.  

Get membership of a learned society: a few of them have really good awards for travel. When I was at Imperial my membership of a learned society was self-sponsored, but having said that there are opportunities for researchers to access membership rates that are quite affordable. I've applied to the BSI as a member to get travel awards. 

A lot of these societies don't even require memberships. I wasn't a member of the Company of Biologists, but I got a travel award that allowed me to go and be based in a lab in the US. 

Every time there was a conference, I would try to apply very early so that I'd be in time to be considered for a scholarship. I think for about 50% of them I went on scholarships, all fully paid for." - Dr Julia Makinde, Benevolent AI (former Postdoc in the Department of Infectious Diseases) 

"Sometimes external organisations have been partnered with Imperial in some way, and so they will bring some kind of funding. For example, the Science Founder programme has a lot of support from Imperial College, as well as other universities. I didn't have to pay for that myself. A lot of the contributors on that program are entrepreneurs that have active businesses and they give a lot of value as well." - Dr Richard Kelwick, Postdoc in the Department of Infectious Disease

I am reluctant to ask my PI/Line manager for time away from working on their research.

This is completely understandable but remember that this development time also benefits your line manager and your group. It is also a right you have from your employee contract. We asked some researchers how they approached this, and we also asked experienced PIs how they feel about their research staff taking time out for skills development, and here’s what they said:

Researcher perspectives:

“You should be able to get the time off, but sometimes it’s tricky and depends on what's going on. I worked out the things that might be of interest to me. I think that for some of the opportunities that I put forward it was very clear that they would also deliver scientific impact to the team, department or section, so it was easy to get the time off.” - Dr Julia Makinde, Benevolent AI (former Postdoc in the Department of Infectious Diseases)
“I definitely say definitely my PI has been very supportive: always encouraging and trusting me to engage with activities and supporting me with grants. It’s a big part of a successful career, I think, having that mentorship. If I'm working with companies on engagement activities it often leads to things which I think are beneficial and that might give our research focus, new ideas, new connections and networks. And that's often led to more funding or, I would argue, a better refined translational project. So, I think there's a lot of benefit there.” Dr Richard Kelwick, Postdoc in the Department of Infectious Disease

PI perspectives:

“It is absolutely necessary for everyone’s development! It always pays off for the individual first of all but also for the group as they develop leadership, collaboration and presentation skills.” - Dr Maria Papathanasiou, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemical Engineering
“I’m very supportive – I think it’s a really good thing that is mutually beneficial. I’ve had several staff who needed specific training in giving talks and they have greatly benefitted from the specific training in presentation skills that the PFDC offer – my lab benefits because of the visibility of a talented person showing off our data in the best light. I also encourage them to take the courses related to career development – fellowship applications, etc. I think it reflects well on us when junior staff win external competitive fellowships.” - Prof Clare Lloyd, Professor at the National Heart and Lung Institute
“I have continuously encouraged my research staff to take the 10 development days and supported them in any way I can, including covering some expenses. The best benefit has been the wellbeing of the ECRs and the increasing feeling of being valued and supported in their careers. This can only strengthen the professional relationship between the ECRs and their line managers, and the commitment of the ECRs to their work, team, department, etc.” - Prof Amin Hajitou, Professor in the Department of Brain Sciences
“Research activities have many drawbacks and hence can be the source of frustration and anxiety. Gaining clarity on individual goals and keeping things in perspective and in balance is also beneficial for the wider group by creating a positive atmosphere of growth. We all know that when we feel empowered, we achieve more and gain a greater sense of satisfaction. Things also happen in the pauses and setting times aside for training and reflection is key to the process.” - Dr Véronique Azuara, Reader in the Department of Metabolism, Digestion, and Reproduction


My PI doesn’t seem to be aware of the requirements, they haven’t talked with me at all about my 10 days development.

All PIs are expected by the College to support you in planning and taking your 10 days development. Perhaps they are not aware of the requirements or don’t know how to approach this with you. Ask them. You may wish to raise their awareness of two useful resources:  

Remember that the Researcher Development Concordat states that you are responsible for taking ownership of your own career development, so be proactive: as a matter of urgency, arrange a development planning conversation with them (or take the opportunity to have an Annual Review Conversation) and take time to prepare for it. Show how your time spent in development activities will also benefit your PI and the wider research group (See our advice above about being reluctant to ask for time off).  

I don’t know where to start with planning my 10 days.

It’s always a good idea to begin with some career goals. You can work through our tip sheet and video on your own time. Then, use the prompts in our development planner and the examples of skills and activities to help you plan.

You can also get some inspiration from other researchers sharing how they approached their own development planning. It might help to have a conversation with someone: a mentor can help you to prioritise, you can bounce ideas of the PFDC, or you could book in a development review with your line manager or PI. A structured process such as the Annual Review Conversation (ARC) will help you to see a way forward.

Researcher perspectives:

"Find your people: Sometimes the people you talk to who offer you advice may not necessarily be your line manager. Find people you can talk to about the things you're thinking about. Maybe you know you want to apply for a fellowship, or you want to move out of academia. Find people to talk to very early. I didn't do that early enough. 

I was a bit slow, maybe I was a bit shy when I first joined the College. But you need to find your own people, and I hesitate to use the word ‘mentors’, because sometimes it can be a lot more organic than the structured systems that are put in place for mentoring. Find people who will tell you the truth in terms of honest feedback.  

The second bit of advice is to just go easy on yourself. I think everybody's figuring it out. I don't think everybody has all the answers, and you may have to try a few things to find what works in the relationships or in the experiences that you embark upon."
- Dr Julia Makinde, Benevolent AI (former Postdoc in the Department of Infectious Diseases) 

“There are definitely periods where I organize things and think about things and others where I’m just like a magpie: “That’s shiny…let's go and see that and see what happens”. Dr Richard Kelwick, Postdoc in the Department of Infectious Disease

"My approach was more organic, I would say. It depended on what I felt I need at the time. 
I didn't really create a plan, at the PRDP [now ARC] stage. I didn't sit down and find the specific courses that I needed to attend, but it was more around the specific timing: what did I think I needed in my work at that time. For example, time management training. At a certain point I was just trying to find tools to help me with managing my time. 

The long-term training, I always say, required me to mainly follow and trust the process. For example, getting active on LinkedIn and talking to people there and doing training that doesn't feel relevant to what you're doing in the short term. The type of training that, you ask yourself, is this worth it? I'm spending a lot of time on trying to learn about how for example to create a company out of research project but will I ever become an entrepreneur or is better if I stick to my own academic pathway and stay with that? But I think trusting the process, stressing that, in the future, that will lead to what you want to do and, in my case that was to become an entrepreneur. The more I learned, then the more I transitioned and focused down on the type of skills and training that I needed to get there."
- Dr Dorian Haci, MintNeuro (former Postdoc in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering) 

I don’t want to stay in academia or research, how should I use my development days?

The 10 days allocation is intended to support the skills and career development of all researchers, irrespective of their career destination.

We have put together examples of development opportunities that other researchers have engaged with, that are valuable in careers outside the research in academic context.

The choice of courses and development opportunities is overwhelming.

There are many different opportunities out there and you can’t do everything. Use your Annual Review Conversation (previously PRDP) conversation with your PI or speak to a mentor to clarify your development priorities for the short term (what you need to support you in your current role) and long term (something that will help you to be successful in your next role).

Use our planning guide and reflective planning questions to prioritise and categorising your development activities. You could: 

  • Pick one priority skills area to focus on for six months, and then move to a different area for the next six to twelve months, and so on.   
  • Every three to four months restrict yourself to one training course, one event and one self-paced or one-to one activity.