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I'm going to refer two countries/continents as X and Y. I'm citizen of neither. A week back, I started my third year of postdoc in X (with no teaching duties), after living two years for my first two postdocs in Y. I did my Ph.D. in X, and realized/strongly felt that apart from work, there's really no connection between X and me, whereas there's definitely very much so with Y, and I'm happy in Y, unlike X(I'm not talking work here) . One can say happiness is a choice, but I just can't force myself to like X, which I tried during my Ph.D. days, all in vein. And I trust my feelings.

My postdoc advisor in X seems to be nice, and I already told him that I'd apply for permanent positions in Y after this postdoc, and he has no problem with that. What I didn't tell him is that I don't like even spending one more day in X and I'd like to take an offer from Y now if it comes, since saying something like that would prompt the question why I had accepted his offer in the first place. I'd not have accepted had I had any options in Y, where the postdoc funding eventually ran out, and I had to find another option.

To solve my problem practically, I'll start searching for permanent jobs in Y very soon and here're my questions if you could please answer:

1) My initial appointment in X is for a year (extendable). If I can secure a job in Y, and want to leave my postdoc before that or before any significant project is completed, will that necessarily be a problem? Will either the university or the postdoc mentor be able to sue me?

2) It's a harder question and I'm trying to deal with it. Is this morally wrong not to tell him that I'm looking for a job in Y now/pretty soon (he's clearly okay with afterwards)? I understand that for now, he wants me to focus on his project only and give him something back in return because he's paying me for that, but on the other hand, I trust my feelings and feel really not good living here in X.

Thank you very much!

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    1) Check your contract or offer letter. Usually the answer is no. – Anonymous Physicist Feb 11 '16 at 2:12
  • 2) No, but it sounds like you already told him. Please clarify the question. – Anonymous Physicist Feb 11 '16 at 2:13
  • I told him that I'd like to go back to Y AFTER my postdoc in X (normally a year), but not the fact that I'm applying to Y now, and would take up an offer from Y if it comes along the next month. LMet me see if I can make this clearer in my question. – Science Man Feb 11 '16 at 2:16
  • And I checked the offer letter; there's no question of being sued. – Science Man Feb 11 '16 at 2:27
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Postdoc advisers understand that postdocs are temporary, and that their goal is to find a permanent position. If such a position comes along -- at times we cannot always predict -- then we're generally happy for our postdocs. At least that's the case for me.

In other words, I think it's ok if you mention that you are looking for jobs and may send out applications soon. You may want to re-assure your adviser that you have every intention to continue working on the project you're on until some position can be found, as well as finish any of the work you started even if you move somewhere else. It's a waste of an adviser's resources to pay someone for work that ultimately never gets finished, but it's an entirely different thing to pay someone for 6 months who will finish up the experiments, proofs, theorems, or the writing started earlier after they moved. In that case, as an adviser, I really only paid for 6 months, but get all of the work.

  • Thank you for your answer! I do understand that it's a waste of an adviser's resources to pay someone for work that ultimately never gets finished. So, I'm definitely willing to continue it after I get a permanent position. Indeed, the research work is not the reason of my leaving X. But, if I leave for an industrial position, I might not be allowed to or get time to continue that project initially, because I'd have many things to learn in the new environment. On the other hand, if I join a teaching position, the same could be caused by the teaching load. – Science Man Feb 13 '16 at 4:57
  • And finally, if I leave this postdoc and join another postdoc (in Y), the new postdoc mentor might not want me to continue working on the problems in the postdoc position in X. Joining a new postdoc in Y could be a possibility too, because I'm just starting my third year of postdoc. I'd appreciate if you could share your thought on the problems mentioned in this and the previous comment. Thanks again! – Science Man Feb 13 '16 at 5:00
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    @ScienceMan, Yes, of course there are problems with a new job. But like I say, as an adviser, we understand all of these things. And there are ways to finish work, even if you have a different kind of job. You may have a couple of hours every weekend where you can work on that paper, or the occasional hour in the evening where you can read up on something. You can make things happen. Talk to your adviser about it! – Wolfgang Bangerth Feb 14 '16 at 18:47
  • Thank you again, that helps! I'll tell him after I make some progress in my current project with him. I'm sure he'll understand. But telling now that I'm looking to go back to Y feels like dropping a bomb. Once I convince him that I dedicate myself to this postdoc too, I'll surely tell him: after all, I might need his recommendations! – Science Man Feb 14 '16 at 23:51
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    That's the important point: That you're dedicated to your job right now,until something different comes along. – Wolfgang Bangerth Feb 15 '16 at 14:59

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