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08/06/2021

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David Kovacs

In Israel, it's strictly mandatory for postdocs funded by the Israel Science Foundation to live in the country during the funding period, even though they have no teaching or administrative duties (and unlike in the first commenter's description, they aren't generally expected to be an integral part of the department). This is a legal requirement, and it's enforced. I don't know for sure, but I suppose the situation is similar with Israeli postdocs funded from other sources.

anon

The legal details of this vary enough by institution and country that OP should just ask their institution.

I think it's reasonable to ask, and I've known postdocs that have done their postdocs while living out of town, even pre-COVID. It depends on the departmental culture, and if they really want to be able to see you typing in your office every day, asking questions at every single talk, etc.

I've worked in a department where there isn't really such an expectation, and where it's not weird to see a faculty member / postdoc in the hallways only a few times per semester.


Postdoc

One of the postdocs at my institute has this problem. They worked out an arrangement where they can travel for breaks and summers, as well as loading up their holidays to take chunks of time off at once. Their partner did the same at their job. Together, that made for a fair amount of time they can spend together, but it also means they're around the department for most of the time that really counts.

On being up-front with your PI: do this. PIs are (usually) human and will work with you, and it's not a good idea to pull a fast one on them.

On being up-front with HR: don't reach out unless you have to. HR is not always human or willing to work with you, and they don't really have the power to make good things happen for you. Just make sure you're not breaking any HR, university-wide or visa requirements.

Evan Westra

I'm going on the second year of a remote postdoc, and it's been very productive. I do regular Zoom meetings with my supervisor, Zoom teaching, Zoom reading groups, Zoom colloquia, and we even organized a Zoom conference. Got plenty of writing done too. Things might change once my institution reverts to fully in-person teaching and reading groups and colloquia start happening IRL again - but with the whole Delta situation right now, who knows if that will happen anytime soon. In general, I've found the remote postdoc to be not only doable but downright rewarding - not the least because I also got to live with my academic spouse the whole time.

Movin' South

I was in a similar situation to Roy. I asked my supervisors if and to what extent I could work remotely and they told me that institutional regulations and immigration law forbid it. As others have said above, it's worth asking just to see if arrangements are possible, but it may be impossible, even with the supervisor's support. I think the plan to leave on weekends is likely to be the most doable from a legal standpoint (I was told that being away when I'm not meant to be working was fine), but do check if you need authorization for going back and forth across the border while on whatever visa type you have (that is, if you have a visa rather than a second nationality). You don't want to get barred on reentry by an overzealous immigration official because you wanted to be quiet about your life outside the department ;)

Some articles that may be of interest on the topic of the remote postdoc (or as I saw someone call it once, "ghostdoc"):

A paper in PLOS Computational Biology providing advice to postdocs and supervisors on remote postdocs: https://journals.plos.org/ploscompbiol/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pcbi.1007809

An article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed making the case for more remote postdocs: https://www.chronicle.com/article/why-and-how-you-should-let-your-postdocs-work-remotely/

Sam Duncan

David Kovacs makes a good point. Grants in Germany have more or less the same requirements. For the Fulbright and DAAD grants I know that one is expected to live in Germany for the period of the grant. (My general impression is that these requirements aren't enforced all that strictly, but I don't really know). I think other postdocs funded by foreign governments or even the U.S. government are likely to have similar requirements. So that's something to check out too.

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