I've been accepted for a postdoc position but after reading the research project I realised that I barely understand anything, so I'm not sure if I would be able to perform it.

Should I reject the position and inform the PI about it or start the postdoc and try asking other postdocs in the group to help me?

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    A postdoc is supposed to challenge you. We can't tell you what to do. It depends on many factors, among them how you define "barely". If you really doubt that you can be successful in this position, you should discuss that with the PI. Apparently, their assessment of you was different. You should also discuss with them what kind of help and support you can expect (actually you should have discussed this already). – Roland Dec 23 '16 at 12:39
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    It depends highly on the group, they might give you a guided background. The best would be to express your concerns with your PI to see what background would be required, where are you at, and how long would it take to understand the details. – Nikey Mike Dec 23 '16 at 13:15
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    If you already know how to do something and are certain that you are going to succeed, then it's not "research" ;) – alephzero Dec 23 '16 at 23:03

A postdoctoral position is first and foremost advanced training that prepares you to be an independent researcher above and beyond the training you received as a graduate student. Your postdoctoral training should incorporate material that you are unfamiliar with, and a training plan for you to learn that material. If you are concerned that you barely understand the research project, I would recommend identifying specific aspects of the project you are unfamiliar with (background literature, methodology, unanswered questions, etc) and talk with the PI about how, if you accepted the position, the lab would set up a specific training plan for you to learn that material. I would only decline the position if they seem unwilling or unable to provide that training.

Personally, I struggled with the same concern when I started my post-doc, but my postdoctoral PI repeatedly reminded me that she hired me not because of what I already knew, but because she knew I was excited about the field and was confident I could learn. I've been productive thus far, and feel well positioned for the coming job search. Plus, now I have distinct skill sets from my predoctoral and postdoctoral work, which helps distinguish me from others in the field.

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