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I received a scholarship from a funding organization to do my PhD. I chose a department within a reputable research center to do my PhD at, and I did start working there 2 months ago.

My career ambitions are to proceed in the academic career path, eventually becoming a professor in my field.

As far as I know, your experience as an academic (or as a researcher) is defined based on your h-index, citations count and publications count. The more strong papers I publish during and after my PhD, the better position I can get in the future. Please correct me if I am wrong about this.

Now in the place I started working at, turned out to be more of an engineering department. They are not concerned with publishing as much as they are concerned with applications to show off to the industry. Most of the PhD students working here intend to work in the industry (factories or companies). Absolutely no PhD student here is intending to work in Academia.

I am very concerned that I might be at the wrong place. I was hoping the place where I do my PhD at would encourage publishing, and involve me in their publications. I still need to learn how to do proper evaluations in our field, I thought that's how I learn it, by getting involved in papers they submit at top venues (not necessarily being a co-author, but just to learn by observing). They are not concerned with submitting papers to top venues because they think their work is more of applications than the research such venues would expect. Moreover, from their perspective it is not worth the effort, because it won't give them better chances in the industry.

Nevertheless, they understand my situation and they will support me financially and by providing resources if I decide to publish at top conferences. But I just feel now there's no hope I can learn to write a high quality paper given these conditions.

As I mentioned at the beginning, my funding comes from a third-party organization. Technically I can switch to a different department, and there is a department I have in mind that belongs to another branch of that same research center, located in a nearby city, they are more research-oriented and they work in the same field. It will not be easy to do that and I will have wasted a lot of time by the time I move out, but it is still doable.

So.. is it worth the hassle?

P.S. These events are taking place in Europe, where in most of the cases you spend your entire period as a PhD student working on your thesis, unlike the courses-then-thesis style in USA.

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    To support the answer of @Suresh: working in a group that has no culture of publishing in top venues is likely the death sentence of your research career. Get out or change your plan.
    – xLeitix
    Jun 10 '14 at 9:33
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    I would also be careful about any place that puts too much emphasis on publishing, encouraging you to inflate your paper count with weak papers. That said, you somehow ended up in the wrong place (industry-oriented rather than academia-oriented) and will have to deal with it, as others have discussed.
    – Phil Perry
    Jun 10 '14 at 19:07
  • What do they do with the "applications to show off to the industry" if not publish? How do they show them to industry? Jun 10 '14 at 19:09
  • @JoshuaTaylor By giving talks, inviting company representatives or being present in fairs and events. Jun 10 '14 at 19:52
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    your experience as an academic (or as a researcher) is defined based on your h-index, citations count and publications count. — False. Your reputation as an academic is strongly correlated with your CV bullets and h-index, perhaps, but the quality, visibility, and impact of your research matters more. No, that's not the same thing.
    – JeffE
    Jun 11 '14 at 11:41
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I did start working there 2 months ago.

and

It will not be easy to do that and I will have wasted a lot of time by the time I move out

don't fit well together. If you're worried about the 2 months you've spent, I'd say that's insignificant. If you're worried that it might take (with application processing etc) upto a year, I'd say the same thing. Think of a 30-40 year long research career. A year (or 2 months) is not a long time.

It sounds like you've done your homework and have a plan for what you want to do, and you're just worried about taking the leap. Take it ! You only get one career, and taking action to further it is always "worth the hassle".

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    I agree with what you say, but do you think this would be the case even if it could result in only two and a half years for my PhD? The funding program supports me for a maximum of 3.5 years. Jun 10 '14 at 9:43
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    I see. funding is a tricky matter, and I'm not as conversant with European-style funding rules. But it still sounds like 2.5 years in a place that encourages and guides you to publish actively is much better than 3.5 years in a place that doesn't.
    – Suresh
    Jun 10 '14 at 9:46
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    @MohamedKhamis if you are doing well in your job then you can very likely find funding from some project. A project will require some time on applied research (applied for the project) but it can provide a valuable practical feedback, context (hence motivation) and data to evaluate your papers. Most of the PhDs that I know are working for some project (while still trying to publish at top venues). Potentially, funding could be indeterminately extended. I've even seen professors suggesting postdocs to start a new PhD to give them funding this way, even though that could be mobbing, I'm not sure
    – Trylks
    Jun 10 '14 at 10:45
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    @MohamedKhamis if the two groups are related, you are not "wasting" one year, your work there could be refocused to research in the new place.
    – Davidmh
    Jun 10 '14 at 12:33
  • I just want to say that I did transfer, and I think that this is one of the best career decisions I've made in my life! It did take about 6 months to finally start at the new place, which means that I am short on 8 months of funding (the scholarship providers won't compensate the time I spent at the old place). However, I am progressing much faster here: I have learned a lot, published 9 papers (2 at top conferences in my area), and attended 5 conferences in my area. And I'll most likely still finish before the end of my scholarship. Thanks for encouraging me to take the leap! @Suresh Oct 9 '16 at 17:10
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Not all choices are binary. This may be one of those situations where this applies.

Is there a way for you to "transition over" from one group to the other? If the group you're currently working with is supportive (and this seems to be the case), would they be OK with you starting a collaborative project with the new group while you complete the paperwork process? That way you can get started on research before everything is formalized, and perhaps your old group can find some new collaborators for future projects.

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  • That's a good idea, such collaborations exist already between my group and the one I am currently considering. But I still plan to look for more institutions that can host me. Do you think that I should consider the feasibility of such arrangement as a major criteria in making the decision? Jun 10 '14 at 11:53
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    I can't really tell you what you should do here. As I said, given your desire to move into an academic research-oriented career, you need to be in an environment more like that of the new group. This is just an arrangement so that you don't lose too much time in the process.
    – aeismail
    Jun 10 '14 at 11:54
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    Specially since your advisor is not paying you, a collaboration seems very easy for them to accept.
    – Davidmh
    Jun 10 '14 at 12:34

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