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I am accepted into the PhD program at my local university. My interests match the interests of many labs there. The lab that I am interested in has hard working people but do not publish often because they are focused on high impact articles only.

Will my career ambitions be better served by declining this offer to try to matriculate at a more prestigious program with more productive labs? Even if that risks me not matriculating into any program?

  • You may not have to choose now. See: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/28904/… – mac389 Mar 8 '15 at 16:42
  • @Sam Can you please add a little bit more about: 1) Are all of the labs publishing only high IF, or is it just the particular one you are looking at? (your question says the first, you comment the second). 2) What are your career ambitions? – jakebeal Mar 10 '15 at 14:41
  • @Jakebeal, the lab that I am interested in is the one. I do not know much about the other labs. – Sam Mar 11 '15 at 4:44
  • @Sam I feel like if the answer is really "He wants high impact factor only" this could be a bad choice, but if it's "He wants highly impactful research" or "He only publishes highly impactful results" then that's not necessarily bad. – Tim Mar 11 '15 at 5:49
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    It's natural to aim for a journal with high visibility because obviously you want other researchers to read your article. And Impact Factor is a widely used proxy measure for visibility, although you should be very careful not to misuse it. But I think your question has a problem: focusing on impactful research and publishing only in journals with high impact factors are two different things. And you shouldn't conflate these two in my opinion. Whichever the lab is doing, I think your question is on-topic and interesting. But I'm not sure if the two interpretations lead to the same answer. – Yuichiro Fujiwara Mar 11 '15 at 6:12
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You can evaluate the likely impact of the lab on your career prospects by looking at where the alumni of the lab have gone in their careers, and comparing it with where the alumni of other labs have gone.

Really, though, you should choose the lab which best combines people that you will enjoy working with and a subject that you will enjoy working on, in the ratio of those two that most fits your social preferences. No matter what else, your career will be best promoted in an environment where it will be cultivated by good peers, good supervision, and work that you are actually interested in.

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