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I am a 2nd-year student in a 4-year PhD program.

I want to apply for an additional scholarship in October 2024. One of the conditions of that scholarship is to present papers at conferences and/or publish papers in journals. Also, this research must not be directly related to my PhD topic.

Somewhere I read or heard that additional scholarship helps strengthen future careers as the recruiters think that "since this person has already successfully acquired grants, he has a higher potential of acquiring future grants."

My supervisor's past PhD students produced three first-authored papers and six second- or third-authored papers on average. His last PhD students produced only two first-author papers because they failed to conclude their third research. However, that student collaborated with many other people and produced seven second- and third-authored papers. I don't have other connections. So, in case, like my supervisor's last student, I fail to conclude the third project, I will have only two papers by the end of my PhD.

My supervisor has declined to help me in this regard, citing the fact that this will interfere with my main research, and hence my PhD will be delayed.

In the meantime, I have done some research myself and discovered a suitable project that I will like very much.

However, the issue is that I am feeling a little scared to venture into it all by myself because of potential time overruns and a lack of guidance.

What should I do now?

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    Why are you scared?
    – Buffy
    Commented Mar 24 at 15:55
  • 1
    And why do you want/need another scholarship?
    – Buffy
    Commented Mar 24 at 15:58

2 Answers 2

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Consider what Buffy has remarked on the possibility of focusing on the main project. But if you want to start an independent project apart from your main one, I would suggest you ask someone to work with you. Before that, make sure you explain to your advisor and convince him that this is a pet problem that you are thinking of working on it only in your free time and will definitely not interfere with your main project. If he doesn't allow it or is hesitant, perhaps it's not such a good idea.

If he is okay with that, then, I would suggest to look for someone at Postdoc level who is working on the same field. Since Postdocs are at initial stage of research as a professional, they are mostly very keen in exploring if they find the problem interesting. Ask them what they think about the problem and its importance to people in the field. It will be better if you can find someone from your own institute, if not then, then you can explore other options. You can try contacting Professor, but its rarely if they be interested.

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If you can manage the finances and that wouldn't end your chances, I guess I'd suggest that you follow your advisors advice and prioritize finishing your degree work. Taking on an additional responsibility would have the risk of delaying your graduation.

If the alternate research is especially appealing to you, not just for the money, then you can still devote a bit of time to it, by, mostly, keeping notes on ideas you have for later follow up after finishing. It is useful, in fact, to have a notebook of future research ideas when you start a career.

If money is an insurmountable problem, talk to your advisor about what options you have and work out a solution that involves either money or time or both.

But if you are doing intense research toward your degree, it is useful to take occasional breaks both to strengthen your body and relax your mind. A "low priority side project" isn't necessarily a bad thing if you don't let it interfere. But, if it does interfere it could be the worst case scenario. Talk to your advisor, especially about money.

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