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Durham University

Human Resources & Organisational Development

Personal Research Plan (PRP)

Guidance Notes

The main aims of the PRP are to enhance and support the strategic planning of research within research groups and departments, to ensure that individual research trajectories are in line with departmental strategy; and to ensure that the research environment within departments is supportive and responsive to the needs of academic staff.  In line with the principles of the ASR process, the focus of the PRP is developmental for both individuals and departments.

Where departments have already begun their own Personal Research Planning process they do not have to repeat the exercise, rather it is suggested that the PRP is used as an aid to fill in any gaps where appropriate. 


All academic staff (except those on specific teaching-only contracts) are expected to publish research recognised internationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour, with a majority recognised as internationally-excellent and internationally-leading (equivalent to 3* and 4*, respectively, in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise), or the potential to achieve this by the end of the probationary period. We particularly emphasise ambition of research questions and quality of outputs and importance of outcomes.

Although the ASR process takes place annually it is recognised that research is a much longer term process.  Academic staff are encouraged to plan their overall research aims and objectives over a five year period (recognising that the trajectory will be better-defined in the early years), and to use the PRP  process to review progress, to plan for the coming year and to make revisions as appropriate.

RAE 2008 definitions of research quality were as follows and these are expected to remain in the short term for the REF:

4* Quality that is world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
3* Quality that is internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour but which nonetheless falls short of the highest standards of excellence.
2* Quality that is recognised internationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.

The Reviewer

The overriding factor when allocating a reviewer is to ensure that s/he has the ability to comment on the reviewee's PRP in the context of the departmental research strategy. 

If departments choose to allocate a different reviewer for the PRP this should be clearly explained to the reviewee in advance of the ASR meeting.

Completing the Form

The PRP should be completed by the reviewee prior to the review taking place and sent to the reviewer, along with Section A of the ASR form if one reviewer is conducting the whole process.

Reviewees may wish to consider previous Personal Research Plans when completing the form. This will allow the reviewer and reviewee to plan in advance for the review meeting and to make sure that the review discussion is beneficial for both parties.

Discussing the content

The review discussion is an opportunity to discuss and comment on the content of the PRP, and to make any adjustments where necessary.  The aim of the discussion is to enable the reviewee to reflect on their research plans in the context of their departmental research strategy.

The reviewer has an opportunity to make a comment on the form based upon the discussion.

Who gets a copy?

Once the whole ASR form has been completed and an agreed copy has been signed by both the reviewer and the reviewee a copy of the PRP should be sent to the Head of Department, the department's Director of Research and, if applicable, the Head of the Research Cluster/Group.

The department's Director of Research will review the content of the PRP in the context of the departmental research strategy and will ensure that any departmental actions are identified.

Please note that the department's Director of Research and the Head of the Research Cluster/Group, if applicable, should receive a copy of the PRP only.