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I have two PhD offers:

Team a) I like the people but the research topics rather just ok.

Team b) I like the research topics but the people are a bit strange and not as well qualified.

Can someone, maybe out of experience, say which is more important to choose?

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    I think this is a bad question to ask on a site like this one. There is not going to be an abstract, universal or general answer. In order to arrive at the right answer for you, we would need to understand the nuances of the situation far beyond the one sentence sketches you've given of the two teams and we'd need to know a lot about you (your personality, your strengths and weaknesses, your specific goals and post PhD plans...). This is a situation in which your guess is much better than ours. Commented Mar 12, 2015 at 16:07
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    IMHO this question is very subjective. If the choice is "my favourite topic with OK people" vs "topic OK for me with perfect people", I would choose the latter. I have done so before and didn't regret. But I also know people who quit their PhD programme because they realized only after couple month that the topic wasn't at all appealing to them.
    – yo'
    Commented Mar 12, 2015 at 16:07
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    Don't underestimate the importance of the supervisor either.
    – user8001
    Commented Mar 12, 2015 at 16:17

2 Answers 2

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It is a very personal choice, and depends on many factors.

That being said, the team can make or break project. Not only you will get helpful advice (or lack of) from the team, but you will go through some very rough bumps along the way. The strength of the team when going to the hard times will determine if you come out stronger, or if all energy is spent in the conflict.

You should ideally be passionate on the topic, but it might not be a love at the first sight. :) A good problem will give rise to five more questions to be answered, and once invested in it, your natural curiosity should drive you naturally to solve them.

Personally, I would choose team over the topic within the reason. If the topic is completely outside of my interests, I would look into how to best integrate with the given team, would set my expectations accordingly. Perhaps you can find a well-qualified collaborator outside your group, or plan on working independently more, etc...But, do make sure you can work well with your adviser, without being able to work well with him/her, you won't get far.

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Pick the right people and make their lab your home base, then find a way to make the topic also relevant to their group, and in the meantime collaborate with the not so ok people.

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