19

I am doing a 3-year PhD in CS (Probability+Logic) at an average university in Continental Europe. I am currently in my final year (which ends JAN -23). I have one top tier (A*) AI-conference publication and nothing else to show for my two years. But my first paper has led to multiple new ideas and I will be submitting another paper soon and will start working on the third idea right after (let's say in a month's time). I really think if my third idea is correct, it will have a major impact in my field.

Now, in all this there is this tradition (previously a rule) at my university of spending at least 3 months of research abroad. My advisor is quite motivated to send me to this massive research group in my field. Now, if I would have had another year of PhD or another publication or no idea to work on, then I would have loved to go visit this massive group for 3 months. But I am not sure if, in my situation, I can afford to lose a lot of time. I feel I have the following two choices:

  1. Not visit the university, work on my third idea, get it published and I am quite certain it's a good contribution. On the downside, I have no collaborations, no one to talk to for a postdoc, with whom I have talked before (I would like to move from my home uni for postdoc and I could not meet anyone in past two years: COVID)

  2. I spend at least 2 weeks slightly distracted trying to move to a new country, maybe not feel focused there, or even if I do, I will dedicate myself mostly to the work I am doing right now. The uni I would like to visit is a massive group of 30 people under one PI, I am not sure how much the PI would be available. On the upside, it could be a massive collaboration avenue and could be a perfect future postdoc destination.

All in all, I am more inclined to not go, but what I don't know is how big is the role of contacts in finding a postdoc in comparison to having good publications?

7
  • Related: academia.stackexchange.com/q/83204
    – Massimo Ortolano
    Feb 17 at 14:01
  • 11
    It is often the case that the visiting student/professor/colleague gets lots of attention at the institute they are visiting. Hey, somebody new with an idea to pursue, limited time here, lets make it work. For an experimentalist that usually meant priority on equipment so the work got done faster than normal. Go, experience, enjoy.
    – Jon Custer
    Feb 17 at 14:35
  • 5
    I would recommend going for the visit. The stress of moving is far outweighed by the opportunities it presents. Networking is a huge part of academia, as is travelling a lot. It's good to get used to doing these things early in your career. You may also find that the change of scene inspires you to work harder, or gets you out of a mental rut.
    – astronat
    Feb 17 at 20:32
  • 1
    It's true, such things are a hassle. All the more in internet/Zoom times, it may seem pointless or really inefficient/suboptimal... But, still, the personal connection is much greater being there physically. So, maybe, worth the hassle. Feb 17 at 22:47
  • 1
    I spent two years in a post doc position in a large group that I hardly interacted with the PI at all. It's not the PI, it's the 30 people with different ideas and different futures that makes this useful.
    – JenB
    Feb 19 at 10:09

4 Answers 4

39

What do you want to do after your PhD? Do you plan on staying in academia, doing some postdocs and eventually apply for a permanent position as a lecturer or professor?

If the answer is no, then maybe it's OK just to publish a few papers and prepare to your PhD thesis defence. If your future employer is in industry, they probably will be impressed with the fact that you have a PhD, rather than the full story of your collaborations during the project.

But if you want to stay in academia, the next few years will be critically important for your career. Some academics somewhere will decide whether to offer you a postdoc job, whether to award you your first research grant, whether to extend your contract, etc. Some will evaluate your performance by the number of papers you published, but many also by how much they heard of you from their peers. Getting your papers published is not easy; but making sure that people read these papers and appreciate your contribution is a much, much more difficult task. Some people are blind to any contribution except their own. You really want to make sure that on every fancy Committee or Panel there is at least one person who can say: "Oh, SagarM? I heard them speaking at this event lately -- it was some interesting stuff. I never had time to read their paper, but it's published in a good journal. Shall we invite them for an interview?"

1
  • 4
    Thanks for that (+!) ! I indeed would like to stay in academia, your answer has been helpful.
    – Russelled
    Feb 17 at 13:12
6

Spending time elsewhere as a student is usually a very enriching experience. It will provide you with a different perspective and, while it is unlikely you will come back having mastered something you did not know before, it is a chance to learn about things you didn’t even know you did not know.

Remember that your supervisor or indeed your unit do things in a certain way often for historical reasons, use certain tools rather than others, or proceed following departmental habits, so a simple change of scenery and the consequent exposure to a different academic culture can only be beneficial.

Something as simple as contrasting the organization of coffee breaks, or time spent having lunch with colleagues, might turn out to be a different experience elsewhere. If the experience is positive, you get to keep it as an example of good organization. Even if the experience is negative, you will come back to your unit knowing what not to do.

2

Suggest you should go there! After all your research has not yet led to a publication so your opportunity cost of visiting is just a potential publication, not an actual publication. But by going to the big group, you can definitely include this in the CV.

2

I think the answer seems clear enough: GO. If you can still workon the third idea there, then why not?

Even in the worst case, say you can only be 50% efficient working on the third idea, it is a win. The chance to massively open your networks and see the state of the art is priceless.

Honestly, I would be ok with delaying my degree for 1 year for such a chance if I were you.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .