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I just finished my master and am about to start a funded PhD in October. Thing is that the reason I am doing this PhD is because I missed the deadlines for the PhDs that I am truly interested in. I was thinking that it would be better to do something academic this year and get paid than to do nothing until the next application cycle.

  • Is this extremely dishonest to start a PhD without the intention to finish it? Will this put me on some blacklist at that university?

  • How should I portray my position in my other PhD applications? I was thinking of saying that I was doing a funded student placement program or something?

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    Doing a PhD is not equivalent to working at the food court, it's not something to do meanwhile you are figuring things out. If you have no interest in pursuing research on a particular field (i.e. can't see yourself finishing the degree) then you should probably not be taking that position. It might just be someone else's dream opportunity, as Charles Morisset mentioned, research funding is like water on Arrakis, you just don't waste it. – posdef Aug 8 '13 at 16:01
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    There are really no perfect endings to this situation. – Shion Aug 8 '13 at 20:57
  • Note that you will commit to some rules when you sign a contract, if you leave it, they can make start a juridical process, as you don't give any output and take some funding from them. – optimal control May 19 '16 at 14:46
  • @optimalcontrol: Where does the OP say they are not going to produce any output during the time for which they stay there? – O. R. Mapper May 19 '16 at 14:58
  • If you were applying to do a PhD in my lab, and you were currently in your first year of a PhD in another lab, you'd need a very compelling explanation to convince me that you were a serious & reliable student. And "I just wanted something to do for a few months while I waited for a better opportunity" would not cut it. – Tyler May 19 '16 at 18:31
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Is this extremely dishonest to start a phd without the intention to finish it?

It depends if you talk about your situation with your current advisor. If you clearly stated "I'm more interested in another position, but I couldn't get it, and it's likely I'll try next year", then, no, it's not dishonest. If you said you were interested in doing a full PhD there, while you actually were not, then, yes, it's dishonest. You're taking a funding opportunity for someone who would be interested, and in some cases, for instance when the funding is associated with a project, you will leave your current advisor with a partial funding, that cannot be used to hire a new PhD student.

Will this put me on some blacklist at that university?

Again, it depends how you explained the situation, but I would not hope much for any recommendation letter from your current advisor (which is a shame, because recommendation letters can be very useful later on).

How should I portray my position in my other phd applications? I was thinking of saying that I was doing a funded student placement program or something?

As I said here, lying is always a bad idea. Academia is a very small world. If you want to change position, then you have to explain why.

  • I generally agree with you, except for "when the funding is associated with a project, you will leave your current advisor with a partial funding, that cannot be used to hire a new PhD student". Being funded from several partial projects is very common in my experience at least in CS in Germany, so there is no real reason that makes this universally impossible. – O. R. Mapper May 19 '16 at 14:44
  • I think it is important to note that all the possible negative consequences derive from the one issue of honesty in dealing with the first advisor. If the advisor accepts the student expecting them to move on after one year, and the student does everything they committed to, the advisor is likely to be a good source of recommendations and there is no problem being truthful on future applications. – Patricia Shanahan May 19 '16 at 14:52
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For some of us, being able to research as a paid job is one of the best that could happen, for some others its just another job. No matter what advise you will get from here, your decision will depends on the way you look at it. From the spirit of your question, I think that you will fall into the later with an extra intention that you would be able to contribute to academia.

Is this extremely dishonest to start a PhD without the intention to finish it? Will this put me on some blacklist at that university?

That will depend on the nature of project and the type of contract you would be signing. For me, the contract is for 3 years and the project was designed such that there would be experiments and analysis during these years. As you would expect, the first few months would be learning the necessary tools and methods. If I chose to quit, that will put the whole project in jeopardy and if the group decides to take another candidate for the same project, unless they couldn't find someone who already know the tools to work, it is a huge waste of productive time.

How should I portray my position in my other PhD applications? I was thinking of saying that I was doing a funded student placement program or something?

Well, I suggest you tell the truth. Everything else would be trying to suppress what you had been doing. You really don't like the whole idea, do you?

You will never know if the person who would have been accepted instead could contribute more than you will in your proposed year, is passionate, or just another candidate looking for just another job. I am sure that you got the position because you are eligible for it, and you are in full liberty to choose what you do with it, but as I mentioned the first part, an ethical dilemma occurs when your intentions could jeopardize the whole project.

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