This is an attempt to characterize the different reasearch capabilities that you may need to be successful in academia. The aim is to list a set of criteria that are a useful guide for helping recognise the diversity of skills that a researcher needs to be successful.

The capabilities below are divided into two groups of five criteria. These groups are associated with individual capabilities, the abilities you need to succeed through personal drive. And interaction capabilities. The abilities you need to improve those around you and benefit from their understanding.

The list is not exhaustive, and we’d be happy to hear of additional ideas to include or ways of refining the capabilities.


  1. Coherence/Vision: this is your ability to pull together the different strands of your research interests into a single research vision. Coherence enables you to quickly summarize what your research interests are and why and judge which ideas are worth pursuing to further your agenda.

  2. Technical: this is your ability to rapidly understand and recreate the technical side of your domain. Depending on your field this might be mathematics, experimental practices (labs or simulation) etc. Technical capabilities allow you to cover the literature quickly and understand which experiments or theories you need to explore your scientific questions.

  3. Doubt: Knowing when you don’t know is more important than the knowing itself.

  4. Independence/Delivery: Being able to set goals and reliably work towards them.

  5. Passion: Being driven by the choice of problem and a thirst for discovery for the sake of discovery.


  1. Sensitivity /patience: Being aware that not everyone understands what you understand and taking value from their contributions and their understanding.

  2. Mentorship/companionship: Being able to support and guide your fellow researchers either as peer or as a mentor or sharing your perspective as a mentee.

  3. Communication of Vision: Being able to project an inspirational view on the ideas that you feel passionate about that draws those around you into the problem.

  4. Education: Being able to share your technical understanding,

  5. Inclusivity: Being aware of those who are being left out of a conversation and capable of turning the conversation to bring them in.