Guidance for PIs: reflective questions

This guidance is intended for for principal investigators, research group leaders, heads of department and departmental administrators. 

Tihis should be read in conjunction with: table of responsibilities

Reflective questions (1)

In the early days of the contract, supervisors should ask themselves:


  • What departmental induction processes are in place for me to draw on?
  • Have I clarified the job description and my expectations of the researcher’s ‘output’? Have I provided a copy of the research proposal, including the deliverables against which our progress will be assessed?
  • Have I explained that the contract is a fixed-term one and clarified the implications of this with the researcher?
  • What degree of freedom does the researcher have in pursuing the research objectives? Has this been discussed?
  • Is the researcher aware of the relevant standards and policies on research integrity, and have they agreed to observe these?
  • How clear is the researcher about laboratory procedure and practice (where appropriate)?
  • Have I explained the protocols for publication (authorships, favoured publication methods)?
  • Does the researcher know what resources are available – and, if not, do they know how to find out – in terms of library, computing, laboratory facilities and materials, and technical assistance?
  • Is the researcher from overseas? Do they need information or support regarding accommodation, bank accounts, signing on with a doctor, getting a national insurance number, etc.? Do they need support with English language development, and if so have I given them information about the University’s Language Centre?
  • What other information does the researcher need (e.g. about university induction events, or the University’s Code of Practice for the Employment and Career Development of Research Staff )? Have they received this information?
  • What teaching opportunities and/or obligations are there for the researcher and have I communicated these?
  • What opportunities have I offered for the researcher to explain their own needs and aspirations, and to bring out any skills they may have that could contribute to the project or more widely to the group or department?

Reflective questions (2)

In considering how to support researchers’ career development, supervisors should ask themselves:
  • How is the researcher’s work progressing? What are they doing well? What could they improve? How am I communicating my views on these? Am I making my expectations clear?
  • How is the researcher attending to their own professional development? What opportunities and encouragement am I offering for them to do so (e.g. conferences, publications, grant applications, college attachments, teaching, committee membership, training events)?
  • How does the researcher see their future beyond the end of this contract? What action are they taking? Is the researcher aware of the support available from the University Careers Service, the Oxford Learning Institute and divisional research training teams; are they aware of the ‘job opportunities’ page of the University’s website?

Reflective questions (3)

During the final third of the contract, supervisors should ask themselves:
  • What are my expectations regarding output at this stage?
  • What are the prospects for the researcher’s continuing employment on this (or a different) project? What discussions have I had with the researcher about this?
  • Have I made the researcher aware of university procedures relating to the expiry of fixed term contracts?
  • Have I reminded the researcher of the Careers Advice available from the Careers Service (if appropriate) as their current contract enters the final phase, and indicated options for additional support available through the divisions?