The community has recently put the question Post-doc priorities: “Laundry list” vs. “Research trumps all” on hold. The given reason was that the question depends strongly on individual factors. Other commenters have argued that "Too Broad" and "Opinion Based" could also apply.

If I am being honest, I don't see it. The question lists a few conflicting advises that are generally given, and asks for a strategy how one generally selects between them. Notably, the question does not follow the pattern of "here is a bunch of facts about me, now tell me what to do", which is the standard format of questions we usually close as based on individual factors.

To me, this is a typical Academia.SE question, for better or for worse. Yes, it is somewhat opinion-based. Yes, it is a little broad. But I think it is important, well within our usual range, and actually fairly answerable (I tried to give it a shot, but I would love if others could answer as well).

If we start being that strict about opinion-based and broad, I am afraid we will end up with very little answerable questions. Is the postdoc priorities question really qualitatively different than this recent question, or that recent question, or the following recent question?


2 Answers 2


In addition to @AlexanderWoo's answer, I think some of the broadness of this question steps from the postdoc in addition to the job itself.

For example, there are people who I know who are extremely good at playing "The Game", for whom the "Laundry List" approach would potentially be very productive, and where "I spend a lot of time on Twitter" is actually a major benefit to one's career instead of a time sink.

Similarly, there are people who are immensely productive when writing papers - if they can ditch the other stuff on the "Laundry List" for a bit, they can absolutely churn out solid, impactful research results. In this case, "I shall crush them under the weight of my CV" might be a good strategy.

I have seen these people co-exist in the same position, and have similarly good career trajectories.

  • 1
    Sounds like an awesome answer to the question to me.
    – xLeitix
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 9:51
  • @xLeitix While flattering, I think it's an overly broad answer to an overly broad question.
    – Fomite
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 21:18
  • @xLeitix That being said, given it was reopened, I posted an expanded version.
    – Fomite
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 21:28

Yes, I do think it is different, because I can think of multiple examples of specific jobs for which "Research Trumps All" is clearly correct if you are applying for that job as well as multiple examples of specific jobs for which "Laundry list" is clearly correct if you are applying for that job. Over the job market as a whole, I do not see a clear preference for one over the other.

(Keep in mind my perspective is North American, and it seems to me that there is more diversity here in types of universities and their preferences than there is in Europe.)

For the other questions, I do not know of multiple examples of situations where different answers are clearly correct.

  • 4
    It's unfortunate that downvotes here could have 2 different possible meanings: (a) I'm incorrect about the lack of a clear preference in the job market; (b) this is not a good reason to close. I think it might be best if we have another meta-question to address (b), along the lines of "What should we do if the answer to a question is that there is no consensus and hence one should choose what one personally likes better?" Commented Oct 7, 2017 at 14:41
  • There is more in one's career than just the job market. Commented Oct 7, 2017 at 15:03
  • @MassimoOrtolano I don't understand your comment. What would be your career if you have no job?
    – Nobody
    Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 6:52
  • @scaaahu In the long run, one's approach to research determines also the structure and breadth of their knowledge. And I think it's important to describe to someone who is at the beginning of their career what are, overall, the long-term consequences of certain choices, not limiting the discussion to the job market. Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 8:54
  • 1
    I think your answer would also be valuable as an answer to the original question, rather than the meta-question. Then it would also be easier to interpret upvotes and downvotes. Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 10:17
  • @MassimoOrtolano: When one expands from job market considerations to entire career considerations, then the answer to the question becomes even more dependent on personal preferences. Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 14:36
  • There are aspects that depend on personal preferences and aspects which don't. For instance, I think that the current answer does a good job in outlining the latter. For the very nature of this community, we have already many open questions that actually have a certain dependence on personal preferences, but I think they are acceptable if the personal part is kept at a reasonable level. I think that the linked question falls in this category. Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 15:41
  • @MassimoOrtolano: I think the current answer is not quite right and it depends more on personal preferences than the current answer suggests. Although it is not a priori obvious, I think the correct answer to the question is to do whatever you like best, because there is a diversity of permanent faculty jobs (and career possibilities within those jobs) out there and you might as well optimize for the ones that want you to do what you like doing. Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 16:03
  • 1
    @AlexanderWoo The thing is, your answer "this depends on personal preferences more than you may think" is a valuable answer here, because it's not obvious. This is much unlike in other cases, where the answer obviously depends on individual factors. The obvious cases are the ones that would normally be closed (to summarize the point made by xLeitix above). Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 19:41
  • @lighthousekeeper: Yes, it's a valuable answer, and the answer is conveyed by closing the question! Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 20:58
  • 2
    @AlexanderWoo Certainly the wrong way to convey it, since it doesn't allow to vote, comment, and accept the answer, while removing the possibility to give other valuable answers. Good that the question was reopened. Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 21:08

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