I am currently a postdoc at a research university. I had originally intended to stay at my postdoc for two years, and this was the understanding I had with my postdoc adviser.
However, I decided to speculatively apply for a few faculty jobs, intending to defer any offers for a year. I have now obtained a faculty job offer to start at the end of one year of my postdoc.
After much reflection, I believe that it is better for my family life not to ask for a deferral and to start the faculty job earlier. In the event that I take the faculty job offer, I still intend to continue and finish the research work which I have started with my postdoc adviser, so I will not be hurting my adviser by starting but not finishing my postdoc work.
Question: Do I have an ethical obligation to stay at my postdoc for two years, because that was my initial plan and was what I told my postdoc adviser? Should I expect him to be understanding when I choose what is best for my family?
The following timeline may explain the sequence of events more clearly:
- March 2014 I was applying for postdocs, and I told my potential postdoc advisor that I was intending to stay for two years at the university if he were to give me an offer.
- April 2014 I was hired with a one-year contract starting August 2014. My adviser explains that there is a good chance my contract will be renewed at the end of the year.
- Sept 2014 I decide to apply opportunistically for a few faculty positions just in case I can get a good offer, and intend to ask for a deferral, so that I would only start my faculty job in August 2016. I told my postdoc adviser that I was applying opportunistically only for a few jobs, and that if I got a job offer, I would ask for a deferral.
- Jan 2015 I get a faculty job offer to start in August 2015. By this time I changed my mind and feel that starting in 2015 is better for me and my family.
Additional relevant details:
- My research area is applied mathematics, so the only requirements for my research are a decent computer and an Internet connection. I can collaborate productively with my postdoc adviser effectively even if I am not physically in the same location as he is.
- I did tell my postdoc adviser that I received a job offer. However, my postdoc contract has not yet been renewed for the second year, and we have not yet had a conversation about when to renew the contract.