Alice (for argument's sake) is a postdoc in maths in an Australian University, but did her PhD in Europe. She is making two applications for funding. The first is to funding scheme A in her home country, the second is to funding scheme B in Australia. Scheme A is less prestigious and is worth less money than Scheme B. Alice's preferences are obvious: she prefers B to A, and A to whatever her next best option is.

Applications for Scheme A are due in November, the outcome is declared in April, the position begins in October. Applications for Scheme B are due in March, and the outcome is declared in November, the position begins in January. The application to Scheme A must be declared in the application to Scheme B. And, should Alice be accepted by Scheme A, she would have to notify Scheme B before they have made a decision on her application.

Question: Suppose Alice is offered Scheme A, how does she indicate this to Scheme B without prejudicing the outcome? Assume that Alice is willing to resign from Scheme A, say after six months or a year. Assume further that Alice stands a reasonable chance in both schemes. There is no guidance online about how this situation is resolved by the funding body for Scheme B.

TL;DR: What does one do if one receives a less prestigious offer while waiting for a decision on a more prestigious one?

  • 3
    I put some effort into making the question precise and (to my mind) clear. Do you have a specific problem with what I've written? People who feel it is too long or too confusing are under no obligation to offer an answer. (And such answers would be of questionable value anyway.)
    – MathInAus
    Nov 26, 2014 at 3:08

2 Answers 2


Alice should tell scheme B something like "I have won competition A, which shows that I am very well qualified for B."

I do not see how winning A can be all that bad for Alice unless A requires her to commit to stay for some period. In any case, I think she should remember how fortunate she is to have A.

  • I do agree with you. Scheme A will require a commitment of two years, and leaving would be breach of contract. But such decisions are sometimes necessary. The concern is that Scheme B would be biased against Alice's application on the grounds that she might require some delay in commencing, or might be considered less likely to take up the funding for whatever reason.
    – MathInAus
    Nov 26, 2014 at 3:14

Alice might consider using a "decision tree" to help her resolve the best route to take.

The following resources will aide Alice in making informed decision based on her odds of being accepted (within reason) to B, the risk of rejecting A and not being accepted to B, how much she values the prestige (and pay) of B, and any other relevant factors Alice considers important.

http://vserver1.cscs.lsa.umich.edu/~spage/ONLINECOURSE/R4Decision.pdf http://www.mindtools.com/dectree.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decision_tree#Advantages_and_disadvantages

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