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I am currently in the second year of my post-doctoral fellowship. My PI will be moving to a new university in ~9 months.

As the story of the potential move developed, I was honest with my PI during discussions and told him that it was likely that I would go with him if he left, but it was never discussed in detail.

Now that more specifics are known, it is time to talk details. I would like to negotiate for an upward move to a research associate position. I believe this would be fair considering I'm sure I will "lose" some amount of research time while the new lab is getting set-up. However, I'm worried about negotiations because a) this is not a "new" job, just a continuation of my fellowship at a new location with the same boss, b) I've already indicated that I would like to move to the new location, and c) my resume has not yet reached a point that I am able to strike out on my own for any other upward job move (though, I can probably make a lateral move to another post-doc, that is not ideal).

My questions are:

Is it reasonable to ask for a title promotion in this situation? Or do I have no room for negotiation?

What else should I add to the negotiations in order to help my career progress to the best of its ability during a transition to a new university in another state?

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    What does a "research associate" position mean in your field/country? In mine, there's not really any such standard title. – Nate Eldredge Dec 6 '13 at 3:45
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I think it is more than reasonable to ask for a "bump", but you may want to reconsider moving. The way I see it is you are currently in your 2nd year as a post doc and the move isn't for 9 months so at the time of the move you would be approaching 3 years as a post doc in the same lab. This is getting to be a long time and you do not want to lose the time associated with the lab move to move to a new lab for a year. You need to make the move to the new lab desirable enough that you want to stay for 2+ years. The reason you may want to reconsider the move is that you would be effectively doing 2 post docs in the same lab instead of 2 labs. This means less of a chance to learn new things (both technical and interpersonal skills) and meet new colleagues (specifically ones who can write letters of reference for you and help you get the next job).

If you chose to stay, the argument for a bump is that (1) this would effectively be your second post doc, and (2) you would be taking a hit in your research associated with the move and need additional support to over come that. The reason keeping you is advantageous to your PI is continuity and the ability to get started quicker. Finally there is the issue that the PI probably has a start up package so can actually afford a bump (both salary and resources).

  • This is a good point. However, I would respectfully add that the length of a postdoc has little effect on your CV. What matters considerably more is the quality/number of your publications. The lab move comes at an unfortunate time for me (I've just reached maximum efficiency), but I believe there is merit to staying longer. That being said, you're right I could learn many new things in another position. However, wouldn't the start up time to learn said new things and get projects off the ground there be comparable to the time I would lose going to a new location within the same lab? – user9842 Dec 7 '13 at 1:58
  • Secondly, you're right about establishing connections. And true, another postdoc would bring new connections. However, wouldn't I will receive the same benefit by moving to a new university and starting up new collaborations there? Moreover, if I stayed on with my current PI at the new place the timing would be perfect to write a K-99 guided by a new mentor from the new university. And certainly, if awarded a K, that would be quite a feather in my cap that I don't believe I would as competitive for if I were to switch to a new postdoc. – user9842 Dec 7 '13 at 2:09
  • Thank you very very much for your comment. It has helped me view this situation in a new light. – user9842 Dec 7 '13 at 2:10
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I think it's reasonable to at least ask for the title bump. What do you have to lose? Administrators are more familiar with this situation than you might expect. It's essentially a case of the worst they can say is "no" when it comes to giving you a revised position/title. It likely comes down to their budget and/or the budget of your PI and whether their faculty see you fitting in there longer term. Remember they may see you as an asset and someone they wish to also "pluck" from your current university, which ultimately makes the plucking university look better overall as far as reputation stuff goes.

I recently witnessed a very similar scenario in my department, where a faculty member left and took his lab with him, including two PhD students and a post-doc. The faculty member (not the post-doc) negotiated with the new department to get his post-doc a research professor position. So it does happen. So you may not be the one who should be doing the negotiating directly, this might fall on your PI to negotiate for you. Also, in this situation the negotiation happened after the faculty member had accepted the offer, so the negotiations can still occur after the initial offer is accepted by the PI. Remember this is the honeymoon phase between the administrators in this new department and your PI, so they may do whatever it takes to make him happy (for now) including whatever he asks for on your behalf. Or they could say no, but I don't think anyone is offended and even expects this.

Another consideration might be whether you wish to stay with this PI long-term or not? Prior to him telling you he was departing, did you see yourself working with him beyond your current post-doc? These university moves are common and can shake you up when you are caught in the middle. It's a very important time to keep your career goals in sight.

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    Very interesting. Particularly, "the negotiations can still occur after the initial offer is accepted by the PI." My career goal would be to have a lab very independent and different from my current PI. However, I feel that by staying on with my current PI, I could greatly increase my competitiveness for a K-99 which would be very very helpful in progressing my career goals towards an independent investigator. – user9842 Dec 7 '13 at 2:12
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Depending on the relationship you have with your PI, I would think it would be general to assume that there will be quite a bit of work / research / papers (however you want to define work apart from the integral of a force curve over the distance) to do after the completion of your current postdoc.

I would think it would be more reasonable to go somewhere else for your second post-doc position at a lateral position as you will be extending your contact base for people to work with and because the work under the previous fellowship will probably still continue (at some level).

I would think that a title would not be of any import, unless you can come up with something that would be reasonable and continue on past your time there, i.e. the beginnings of some type of endowed post-doc chair and some associated name to go with it. Even going from post-doc to say 'Research Assistant Professor' would be fine.

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