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If it's possible to do a post-doc in the group you did your PhD in, which I assume should not be too hard if you have a good relationship with your advisor, why do researchers often choose to do postdocs at other departments?

If one does a post-doc at another lab, one has to face the cost of adjusting to a new environments and labmates and take the risk of working with an advisor he/she doesn't have good chemistry with. These costs are further augmented in light of how short a post-doc normally is.

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    The bigger cost is staying in one place for too long and therefore only being comfortable in one environment and having chemistry with a small number of people. Unless you are the kind of person who can create your own job wherever you want it, it is quite probable at some stage you will have to move somewhere new. It's quite useful if several people in your new job already know you. – Calchas Feb 13 '16 at 21:50
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why do researchers often choose to do postdocs at other departments?

A few reasons:

  1. It's fundamental, especially at the beginning of one's career, to widen one's horizon and see how other groups around the world are used to work, how they are organized, and which kind of activities and ideas they have. I know a few researchers who have never tried to have experiences outside their "home" group, and I think that they have a limited view of the academic world, and have limited research ideas.
  2. It helps to build connections that might become useful for one's future career.
  3. It strengthens your curriculum.
  4. It helps to keep boredom away: many people is positively affected by a temporary, or less temporary, change of environment.

one has to face the cost of adjusting to a new environments and labmates and take the risk of working with an advisor he/she doesn't have good chemistry with.

You might be faced, instead, with meeting amazing people, expand your experiences and knowledge, and visit other cities and countries. All this while being paid.

  • To add to this, there's probably a (weak) signaling justification there. Because it's otherwise desirable to do a postdoc elsewhere, but a good bargain for your PhD group if you stay on (minimal onboarding), staying on longer may be the default if you can't find a postdoc elsewhere, so if you do it, future employers may wonder why you couldn't find a postdoc elsewhere. – Paul Feb 13 '16 at 20:10

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