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Summary: I have finished postdoc #1 (it was negative experience) and started postdoc #2. I have been invited to present work performed during postdoc #1. Is it normal and expected, since it will take away time from my current job?

I have finished a postdoc a few months ago. It wasn't a pleasant experience both from a perspective of human relationship with my supervisor (a fake, hypocrite, toxic and stressful person/experience, nothing like I had faced before in my whole life) and from a research project (too little challenged mentally, left alone most of the time, and badly managed: set to work on non priority tasks most of the time). I will start another postdoc in a few months, in another research group, in another city, in another topic (which I personally find much more interesting).

However, I have been contacted by the 1st postdoc research group, asking me whether I would attend to a conference, to present some of our work. This would be for a few days during the 1st month of my 2nd postdoc, which would start in a few months from now. On a personal level, I do not think it would help me much to present this work (I am not involved in this topic anymore), I would rather work in the new laboratory (every working day will be extremely precious and valuable, since there aren't many). If I were to attend the conference, it would mean the 2nd postdoc would have to pay me a full salary while I would be "working" for the other laboratory.

I would rather not give more details, at least for now. I am wondering whether it is common for people doing several postdocs, to "work" for previous postdocs, or attend to conferences related to previous postdocs, while it removes working time in the new postdoc.

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    Yes, it's common. Of course nobody can force you to do it anymore at this point ...
    – xLeitix
    Commented Jun 24, 2022 at 9:34
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    I feel that the question you really want to ask is "even if it's common, is it okay if I decline?" The answer is an emphatic "yes, it's ok to decline". You get to choose how to spend your energy; it's a healthy choice not to spend it on a bad relationship and work situation when it won't even really help your career. Commented Jun 24, 2022 at 23:12
  • This is very country specific. Not the same in France, USA, Germany, Spain Commented Jun 25, 2022 at 8:34
  • Just be sure the invite isn't from a predatory conference Commented Jun 25, 2022 at 19:57

2 Answers 2

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Yes, it is common to publish or present previous work while employed at a new position. Usually, the new academic supervisor supports and even encourages this. But you should of course discuss with them.

If you don't want to do this, it is common practice to say something like "I'm sorry, I'm too busy with my new job and I just don't have the time."

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    Indeed, I always let my postdocs go to conferences they had arranged before, and assumed their next employer would let them go to any conferences that occurred after they left the group. Sadly it may not be universal, and often funding can be a bit tricky.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jun 24, 2022 at 13:28
  • @JonCuster: if the topics are completely unrelated and the old group asks for the presentation, they should maybe at least pay for the conference and travel. (At least where I am, travel money is a very much restricted resource, so the new project may "feel" that money more than a few days spent networking with people somewhat less closely connected to the new topic)
    – cbeleites
    Commented Jun 25, 2022 at 10:51
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If there is a chance you would be interested in presenting at the conference, consider discussing it with your 2nd postdoc supervisor. One of the goals of a postdoc position is career development, which is not limited to the specific project you were hired for. Even if the 1st postdoc topic is different, the experience of giving the talk may be useful (and also could be noted on your CV, although this may be minor if you have several other publications).

If I were to attend the conference, it would mean the 2nd postdoc would have to pay me a full salary while I would be "working" for the other laboratory.

This is not necessarily a problem. Again, your 2nd postdoc supervisor can provide guidance, and may be more than willing to support this as part of contributing to the academic community and developing you as a "whole researcher". It is routine that some "mopping up" from a previous position is done early in a new position; supervisors are often fine with this (within reason) because it enhances your general record/reputation and maintains useful connections/goodwill.

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