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I currently have a postdoc at a university in the US whose contract stipulates only that I "produce research" relevant to my field. I have no supervisor and have not been hired as part of a particular grant requiring regular updates to a funding institution. I have been offered a second year of this postdoc should I choose it (I have not yet).

In the meanwhile, I have accepted an offer for next year in another country funded by a private foundation in which I will be working closely with a supervisor. For a fleeting moment, I have wondered whether or not it would be possible to run both jobs simultaneously, since one (my current appointment) has no tangible requirements beyond the "production of research". I can't find anything relevant in either of my contracts or in the conflict of interest statements for the respective universities. However, I haven't pursued this option since:

  1. It seems tasteless, and I wouldn't want to jeopardize my relationship with anyone at either institution.

  2. I assume there must be some injunction against accepting two positions, particularly with regard to the intellectual property produced by the researcher.

Point 1 also prevents me from asking anyone at my institutions about this option (for the moment). Are my suspicions correct?

Thanks in advance.

Edit: Two more relevant points: first, my current position allows me to work remotely at the moment and I strongly suspect this will continue; second, I do have some extremely light obligations in the form of aiding in the organization of departmental events, but, again, this can be done remotely and I would certainly continue this in the event of a dual postdoc.

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    Is the goal to get paid twice? I think a lot of places would let you keep your affiliation if you wanted to drop the paycheck. – user133933 Mar 29 at 15:22
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    What would it take to be allowed to work in the other country? – Azor Ahai -him- Mar 29 at 15:24
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    Let's just say that my considerations are only practical and I don't care much about the affiliation. Also, good point @Azor: I'm not sure what my visa will stipulate, but I will check this. – rene_gateaux Mar 29 at 15:28
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    Who owns the Intellectual Property? Some contracts stipulate ownership of IP. – Pam Mar 30 at 12:40
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    A professor was doing two jobs at once by flying every week. This was viewed as wrong and frowned upon. Obviously, the details differ, but this certainly could be viewed as a conflict-of-interest. On the other hand, some Universities allow people to 'consult' for pay .... – JosephDoggie Mar 30 at 16:46
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It is hard to predict what is "possible". Your contract(s) and policies may stipulate expectations.

But to be safe, I would suggest, only do this with everyone's knowledge and permission. I doubt that it would be given, I guess, but you could suffer if you do it "on the sly". If you do a good job in both and no one learns of the deception then you might be ok, but that certainly isn't assured. And, working it out in advance will help make expectations clear and avoid any legal issues.

Also, it is good to sleep, occasionally and to have an actual life.

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    The question explicitly states it is not mentioned in the contract. In academia, such things are usually forbidden by policy. The policies forbid many things which are not mentioned in employment contracts, but one can expect serious consequences for violating a policy in the way the asker proposes. – Anonymous Physicist Mar 29 at 22:06
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    And it's likely that doing a good job would involve publishing under an affiliation, at which point the other affiliation could very easily learn what's going on. – Teepeemm Mar 30 at 0:14
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    Not just the affiliation, papers are expected to acknowledge the grant/funding source too. Hard to claim a paper is "production of research" for funder A, when the paper itself says the work was funded by PrivateFoundationB... – Lou Knee Mar 30 at 15:03
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    When you publish research, you list your institutional affiliation(s)...if your work has even moderate success you're bound to wind up getting caught at some time or another. Better to put everything in the open up front. – WBT Mar 30 at 18:23
  • Along the lines of the comments here, what would you do with your CV if you have concurrent publications from both institutions? – gns100 Mar 30 at 19:38
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There isn’t an employer in the US who will agree to pay you a salary knowing that you are also getting a salary from another employer for working during the same hours. If we’re talking about moonlighting during the weekend, that would be something else, but what you are proposing? No. The lack of tangible work requirements is irrelevant, it’s just a non-starter from an HR and policy point of view. Even if your PI is okay with it (they won’t be, but let’s pretend just for argument’s sake), their institution won’t be.

So, it comes down to whether you can do this surreptitiously and avoid getting caught, and what the precise legal and reputational risks are. I’ll leave that for you to ponder about. The folks at law.stackexchange might have some advice.

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    There's a million caveats to this for academia - multiple appointments is very common. Asking to draw 3 months of salary and no benefits while maintaining affiliation isn't an unreasonable request. They don't lose what they've already invested in you and get a bunch of money freed up. – user133933 Mar 29 at 17:09
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    @Libor multiple appointments, sure. Overlapping salaries for the same work days/hours, no. My institution has very strict policies about such things. There are specific carve-outs to allow paying a per diem to visiting professors on sabbatical who continue to be paid by their institutions, up to certain limits related to federal government tax rules, but I can’t think of any other situation that would come even close to being an exception to the general prohibition on overlapping salaries. And I’m confident my institution is very representative of other US universities in that regard. – Dan Romik Mar 29 at 17:14
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    Asking one appointment to push your 12mo salary into 9mo and then adding 3mo salary from another appointment is absolutely a thing that you could try. Hell, the only reason we still have an 'academic' pay calendar for jobs that clearly run year-round is so you can do summer-salary shenanigans to try to get paid a living wage. Yeah, straight drawing two paychecks is a no-no, but there might be some room for creative restructuring. It's kinda a win-win-win. – user133933 Mar 29 at 17:34
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    @Libor okay, I guess when it comes to money there is no limit to the ingenuity and creativity people will put into getting more of it. I’ve said what I have to say and I’ll leave it at that. Thanks for your thoughts, you have some valid points. – Dan Romik Mar 29 at 17:37
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    @Libor, (and Dan R.), intermittently I've seen instances in the U.S. of people caught "double-dipping", having two "full-time" appointments, flying back and forth (pre-pandemic), and playing the role of high-rolling externally-funded big shot. But got caught. I wish I could remember enough details to find some specifics, but I seem unable... Maybe someone else can. – paul garrett Mar 29 at 20:44
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Most of the other answers get the logistics right, you can typically make an arrangement like this at 80/20, but not both full-time. That said I think the other answers are failing to make clear how serious a problem trying to get around this could be. I am not a lawyer, but this would almost certainly be fraud, and might open you or your PI’s up for criminal charges. Grants require the PI to certify that each person paid is working on the project for the number of months you’re paying them for. You can’t double-dip like this (eg if a PI has two grants that both require the same experiment you can’t double-pay a student to do the experiment). What you’re suggesting is a crime, and even worse could be drawing your PIs into your criminal scheme for failing to supervise their employees enough to know whether they’re working on their grant when they certified that they were.

Don’t do this!

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I do not think that your employers will agree to such a construction (after all, they both pay you for a fulltime job), but even if they do, I would strongly advise you not to do it.

I have no experience with parallel postdoc positions, but I tried to combine two part-time jobs for some years (with the knowledge of both employers), and I think there are some aspects that might be similar.

The problem is that even if both employers know that you have another job and they agree, they expect you to be available whenever they think it reasonable. If employer 1 schedules a meeting on Monday morning and employer 2 expects you to do some urgent work for him (or attend a conference or something like that) at the same time, you are in trouble. If you promised employer 2 to be in at a certain time and employer 1 expects you to work overtime, you are in trouble. There will be many situations where you have to disappoint at least one of your employers, and this will fall back on you. In the end, you work a lot more than others, but with mediocre results. This is very dissatisfying.

Stay away from it. Instead, take your choice and concentrate on one job.

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At some universities, you might get under-100% contracts and in those cases, I agree that having a small extra-job is ok. Say, you accept short-term extra pay for collaborating on a paper from another university, or a 20% job elsewhere if you're hired 80% at your main place. In those cases, it's customary to let both institutions know. It's ok to have multiple affiliations. I have two for some papers because I was hired by a lab for a specific small project for 3 months. I would not have done that in the case where my main employer dislikes or has a rivalry with the other department.

However, if you have a full time job from both places, it's not acceptable. Also, even with an 80% position, you're often expected to work more ("it's your career", after all). You can also think about it ethically: If you accept a 60-40 or 80-20 solution, that's one thing, since you are filling some specific need. I had a 60-40 situation during my PhD time, where I worked as lab manager (which was a position that isn't seen as furthering your academic career where I work) part time and as a PhD student researcher for 60% (but actually much more, as we all know). This was possible, because my lab manager hours were clearly delineated. I had very clear tasks and ad to report my hours. Whereas the PhD position was your run of the mill "just" having to do research, papers, conferences, and all that, which is less clear in terms of hours and often even tasks.

However, if you're taking up two full positions (or almost full, if they're both, say, 80%), you are taking up a position that another researcher might take to further their career. And in your case it doesn't even seem like it's because you really want to work with someone at your first university, it's "just" for the pay?

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It is rare but OK (within contracts) to be paid to do the same work by two different entities.

The problem arise when Uni A will tell you: "hey, i want you to work on problem XYZ now" and organization B tells you "keep working on QWE problem".

Now what you gonna do? You can try working 16hrs a day, but that is usually a recipe for disaster.

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    I'm not sure the word "rare" covers just how extraordinary it would have to be for this arrangement to ever occur without special agreement by all parties involved. The potential for issues is definitely not limited to being told "work on XYZ" by one and "work on QWE" by the other. – Bryan Krause Mar 30 at 17:15
  • @BryanKrause i think there are arrangements when tenured Professor gets paid to do X and also to consult for company about X / be on science advisory board. I agree it is very rare occasion. I tried to show concrete example how problems can occur – aaaaa says reinstate Monica Mar 30 at 17:30
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    In that circumstance at my institution it would have to be explicitly approved by the university and reviewed regularly (I think this is annual? haven't done it myself). As a state university a lot of the particulars are governed by state law, but I'd be shocked if any institution didn't have some similar policy. Additionally, this is nothing like what OP is suggesting. I'd pretty much guarantee that any source of funding giving freedom to just "produce research" is expecting to fund someone that wouldn't otherwise be funded, not to pay someone double for the same output. – Bryan Krause Mar 30 at 17:44

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