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I have recently been awarded an individual postdoctoral fellowship (independent external funding for my own project) to join a research group at institution A. At the same time, I was applying for other postdoc positions, and finally I was offered a position by a professor at institution B. The group at B is more well-known and a slightly better fit for my research overall, but other than that the conditions (including salary and the institutions themselves) are similar. I cannot take the independent funding to institution B, so I have to choose between accepting the fellowship at A or a standard postdoc position at B.

Is having individual postdoctoral funding important enough to outweigh the disadvantage of being in a slightly worse group? I feel like having been awarded the fellowship is enough and I should choose the group that's a better fit for me, but people obsess over these named "prestigious" fellowships nowadays so I'm a bit worried that it'd be stupid to decline one and take a "regular" postdoc instead.

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    I have been in exactly that situation, except that the notification for the fellowship came when I had already moved to B. Eventually I negotiated that I could use a reduced amount of the funding for a three-month research stay at institution A during the postdoc at B. I would say that it was the best decision, since that way I got to collaborate and produce papers with both institutions (the prof at B got a bit annoyed, but we're on good terms now). Dec 21, 2020 at 16:49

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Opinion only, of course.

Since the finances are a wash, at this stage of your career I would choose the job that I thought would best allow me to do the research that most interested me. I would not let "prestige" weigh my decision.

Congratulations on having two good possibilities.

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    Thank you. I can only hope that hiring committees share your opinion!
    – J. P.
    Dec 22, 2020 at 5:18
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Regardless of which choice you make, it's in your best interest to keep good relations with research groups in your field of expertise. It's a very small world after all.

If money and career is a factor in your decision, you need to do some soul searching. Nobody can give you any advice here. It sounds like you really want to go to institution B due to higher research quality but you're afraid of a missed monetary opportunity from institution A. So, what matters to you more and what do you expect to do to maximize your potential once you make a decision?

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    Thanks for the insight. Actually, "missed monetary opportunity" was never my reason, as the salaries are comparable (there is additional research funding in the fellowship though). I wanted the question to focus only on whether the prestige associated with an independent fellowship is worth choosing a group that is otherwise 2nd choice, all other factors being comparable.
    – J. P.
    Dec 21, 2020 at 20:58
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    This answer makes it sound like career considerations are beneath scientists, which is silly. You can’t do science if you don’t have a career in science.
    – Dawn
    Dec 21, 2020 at 21:06
  • Indeed it's silly to state that career considerations are beneath scientists. If money's not a factor, you're basically asking if a title makes a difference in your career versus working with people that you're better suited to work with. Well, I guess that depends on what you want to do with that title. Hence, how do you plan to maximize your potential once you make a decision?
    – candideto
    Dec 21, 2020 at 23:58

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