I'm applying to a post-doc, with a specific project. I'm wondering how much freedom can I get as a post-doc.

I'm currently supervising a master student and I'm planning to supervise more during the post-doc. I'm also still collaborating with my PhD advisors and would like to do some extra analysis, on the side.

Having said that, I was wondering how much freedom do I get as a post-doc? I obviously need to work for the project I'm hired but I'm hoping to get some time to pursue other research interests and writing papers.

Would this be acceptable as a post-doc? Can I work on more than one project at a time?

  • 4
    Often the answer is yes, but it's really something you'll have to discuss with whoever's hiring you.
    – Anyon
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 16:39
  • 1
    There is no way to answer this question broadly, postdoc positions and advisors of postdocs are not identical to each other.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 16:46
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    Assuming you are in demand, I would try to set some expectations that this will continue. Of course you should be looking at multiple opportunities also, not just one.
    – guest
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 17:32
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    I think this is a nice and useful question. Of course the answer will be "it depends". However some good answers may go a little deeper into trends or generalities. Recommend to re open. This is in the sweet spot of forum coverage and applicable to many people.
    – guest
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 18:05
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    @psoares if you are in the process of applying for two positions, imho this is a completely legitimate question to ask the two PIs. Projects can be more or less flexible, they should be able to tell you. Don't expect to have half your time free though, the PI expects you to work with them more than with your former advisor of course ;)
    – Erwan
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 23:01

1 Answer 1


It's quite common for postdocs to work on different projects at the same time, but this has to be agreed with the PI who is funding you.

In my experience, there is a general understanding in academia that contracts are not strictly limited to the project being funded. For example, postdocs are often expected to apply for funding and this is rarely officially included in the scope of the project. Another very common case is publications: the potentially long process of publishing a paper sometimes overlaps with the next contract, but in general PIs are fine with letting you finish papers related to your previous contract.

  • 1
    Good answer (to a good question).
    – guest
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 18:06

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