I am a student applying in different places for postdoctoral positions and asking various faculties for position. It happened that, due to limited resources, I am not getting much response. However more than one faculty (from different institutes all in Europe) gave positive responses. The caveat is, I have to jointly write a research proposal with them for grant application/some fellowships. Whatever be the outcome of the proposal(s), I am starting my collaboration with them soon.

My dilemma starts here. The fellowships each one suggested are very competitive. Those faculties themselves informed me that getting those fellowships became more difficult in the present financial situation. Now is it ethical to do apply for multiple funding agencies in this way? Fortunately, each of them suggested applying for different fellowships. I am slightly afraid of the morality of the whole issue (like: what if all of the projects get funding). Please help.

4 Answers 4


There is nothing wrong or strange to apply for several fellowships and funding as you describe. The opposite would mean you have to gamble on one and hope it comes through. What can be a bit problematic is perhaps if each proposal causes a lot of work for somebody in a department if you later is a no show despite funding. In such a case it would be good to let people know you are sending in other applications as well so they are not completely in the dark about your situation. I am sure everyone will be sympathetic. If they are not you may not want to go there anyway.

The risk of getting money from several of your applications seems like a luxury problem. Yes, you have to decide which one to go for but that should be a pleasant problem. I would tackle the problem IF it becomes reality and not worry about it at this stage. Your first step is to get applications in, not worry about what to do when and if any funding comes through.

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    Let your grant-collaborators know upfront seems like the core of it here. Writing a proposal with Dr. X and then walking out on them without warning might indeed be unethical; but as long as you tell Dr. X upfront that you’re making other applications which you might take in preference to theirs, they can decide for themselves whether they’re happy to accept that (usually slight) risk, and in that case, you have no need to feel guilty if you end up doing what you told them you might.
    – PLL
    Commented Jan 14, 2014 at 23:10
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    Peter Jansson is right, don't worry about that perspective, it may not happen. If it will happen, you'll worry about it; but if it won't happen, you're now worrying in vain. “I have lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” (Mark Twain) Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 18:35

It depends a lot what kinds of grants or fellowships you are applying to. In any case, you have to check the guidelines of the fellowships very throughly. It is not uncommon that you have to indicate if you have submitted a similar proposal elsewhere (stating precisely where). It may even stated that "cross submission" is not allowed.

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    Who says the other proposals are similar?
    – gerrit
    Commented Jan 14, 2014 at 20:24
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    Nobody. But it may well be that the proposals have some thematic overlap and often one has to indicate this too.
    – Dirk
    Commented Jan 14, 2014 at 20:27
  • @gerrit That is a good point. Fortunately for me, that problem did not appear as of now.
    – RSG
    Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 5:45

You are applying for a job. A prestigious, noble and publicly-beneficial job, but that does not change its fundamental character. And as a post-doc you will do research work, and get a salary for it - just like a Professor, on one hand, and a security guard or cleaning crew member, on the other hand.

Do you think any of them should only apply for one position at a time?

Another aspect of this fact: Nobody will be doing you a favor. They make offers, and you can accept or reject them; just like they get applications and may accept or reject them. Your tone seems slightly self-deprecating - and there's no need for that. You're a (soon to be) recognized Doctor of Philosophy. Stand tall!


It is perfectly ethical and reasonable to write multiple applications because chances are low. In most of cases, you will get only one application accepted anyway and it will be no problems. In unlikely case when you get more than one positive response, it should make no problem to pick that suits for you best.

Of course, theoretically if you are good enough for a position A, you should also be good for the positions B, C and D, if the requirements are similar. However this also depends on many random factors. Maybe you know some method they plan to use in research but for some reason did not state clearly in the announcement. Maybe the professor has (grounded or not) personal opinion that your institution or journal where you have published is very bad or very good. People pre-screening the applications may apply different priorities. Depends a lot on who else has applied for the position. Many things can happen.

Waiting for the solution that often takes weeks at least and significantly reduces the number of applications that are possible to write, creating risks that you will never succeed with any.

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