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Opinion on working simultaneously in multiple research groups as an undergrad

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I am currently a junior student working part-time in a research group focusing on network science, more specifically speaking, community detection in networks. Community detection is interesting, however, I have always wanted to know more about research in biostatistics related fields, such as survival analysis or causal inference, which are two things my PI does not do. (In his words, he does anything but those two). A professor I know happen to be conducting a research project on ‘' Mean residual life models for survival and longitudinal data’’, which I am very curious about and would be willing to try. So I was wondering whether it would be appropriate, given consent from both PIs, to work in both groups simultaneously.


Opinions on different forums do not lead to a consensus. Although most answers indicate that working on both is morally acceptable as long as both PIs approve of it and are not competitors in the field. Some say they do not recommend doing so given the time constraint and that such behavior seldom leads to meaningful research results; others say it’s worth trying as long as you put enough effort in both places. I am now torn between the two ends. So I would really love to seek opinion from one of my favorite forums.

Thanks a lot!


P.S. The research in community detection is funded, while the project on mean residual models will likely be a volunteer position.

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34 minutes ago, bayessays said:

I assume your positions have some sort of expectation of how many hours per week you work. If so and you are able to fulfill those requirements, I don't see anything wrong with working on two things if you feel you have the time and really want to. 

@bayessays Thanks for your response! I've always gained much from your advice! I will definitely give it a shot :D! Thanks again.

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  • 1 month later...

Given the conditions above, namely that the PI's aren't competetors and they both consent, I don't think it presents an ethical issue.

That said, from personal experience, it is my opinion that working on one project at 100% is more productive than working on two projects at 50%/50%. It takes a stupid amount of work to bring a project to publication, and I think that splitting your efforts only makes it more likely that neither will make it to press. This is something that I tried in my junior year, but ended up shelving one project to focus on the other, because I couldn't realistically keep up with both. Luckly, my professors understood, but that could have ended badly in hindsight. It's better to take on enough and succeed than too much and burn bridges.

If you want to jump from one project to another, that's totally fine, and I don't think your PI would hold that against you. I would recommend doing that after a major milestone, like submitting a manuscript for review, or something.

You can PM me if you'd like to discuss further.


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