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I have recently started a postdoc in a prestigious US university, making a leap between scientific areas. Right before starting it I have applied for a rather competitive European fellowship (Marie Curie Individual Fellowship), also in this new scientific area.

Today (5 months after the application) I learned that I got the fellowship. I have not actually expected it and I was applying more to get experience in writing grants, to apply seriously a year or two later (since in general I would like to end up in Europe in the long run). I honestly do not feel like a really experienced independent researcher I pretended to be in the proposal. Also, knowing the things I have learned during my new postdoc, if I were to write this proposal right know, I would write a very different one.

Now I have to choose whether to accept the fellowship and learn scientific maturity the hard way learning new science and managing new funding in a new country simultaneously, or to stay in the US and develop my knowledge of the new scientific area more calmly (and have time to publish something in a reasonable journal). I have some other more mundane concerns about moving from the US to Europe right now, but they are less crucial.

I was told before that when one applies for permanent positions, there is a rather hard rule that on never rejects it, if offered. In the sense that if one rejects it once, one has zero chance of getting another one in future. This funding I am talking about is not a permanent position but it is still a rather big thing, as I far as I understand.

So finally, I have two questions:

  1. Is there some more or less firm "rule" about rejecting major fellwships/fundings, like with the permanent positions?
  2. Overall, does the idea of rejecting a respected fellowship on the grounds of not being confident enough sound reasonable, or typically one is supposed to go ahead and ride the rare wave of opportunity?
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    What do you know about the fellowship's flexibility, especially in terms of deferment and proposed vs. actual project parameters? – Dawn Jan 29 '18 at 18:39
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    Buyer's remorse + impostor syndrome. Congratulations, you made it. What should go wrong? – henning Jan 29 '18 at 18:47
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    You can defer the beginning of the Marie Curie, but only for a few months. That should give you the time to wrap up things where you are. If you plan to return to Europe this will make your life much easier in the long run. Otherwise if you stay where you are make sure you will have 2-3 years of guaranteed contract. – Herman Toothrot Jan 29 '18 at 19:02
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    Although the post-doc offers formal mentoring, you may be able to pull together a team of informal mentors in the new position. The probability may be increased if you continue some projects with your current supervisor (or other senior researchers) while doing the fellowship. Is there any reason this might not be a reasonable course of action? – Dawn Jan 29 '18 at 20:12
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    @demitau. Thank you! I eventually accepted the offer and selected that last possible starting date; that is 1 Sep next year. Good luck to both of us :) – Pioneer83 May 29 '18 at 12:00
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There is a difference between good funding and prestigious funding. The Marie Curie fellowships are prestigious funding, but not really good funding. They pay a lot in salary (in some fields it could be twice what you are making in the US) but don't offer much else. The duration of fellowships are no more than 24 months, I believe. There is no funding to hire a PhD student or even an RA or funding for the actual research. There is no guarantee of a job at the end. The Marie Curie fellowship is nothing like a permanent position. Again, it is very prestigious, so congratulations.

Apart from the salary (which I am guessing is higher), what does the fellowship give you that your current supervisor is not (e.g., how long is your current contract and can it be extended). This is really the type of thing you need to talk to your post doc supervisor about.

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    The fellowship also covers travel. And correct me if I'm wrong but having something prestigious on one's CV can be a good boost for future tenure(-track) job applications, no? As in "this person is good, better not let the chance of getting them pass". – user9646 Jan 29 '18 at 20:00
  • Seeing a funded Marie Curie fellowship on someone's CV is definitely a big plus when looking for candidates for permanent hires! – Wolfgang Bangerth Jan 29 '18 at 23:01
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    @WolfgangBangerth yes, but there are way around that. For a fellowship like that the prestige is in being selected and not in actually taking the money. In certain circumstances, like when applying for permanent positions in the EU, listing a funded, but declined, fellowship makes sense. – StrongBad Jan 29 '18 at 23:06
  • That's fair. But I think it only makes sense to decline if you have something substantially equivalent that you intend to take. If you have the option of taking the Marie Curie at a good university in Germany, France, or the UK, and you choose instead to hire up with Pacific Christian University, then that 's going to look odd. – Wolfgang Bangerth Jan 30 '18 at 2:48

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