I first posted this question in academia.se, there it was suggested that I could try at the field's specific se. If it is off-topic for here, I will gladly remove it.

My background is in mathematics, with a main interest in mathematical statistics / biostatistics, and I am considering applying for a PhD position with a quantitative psychology group. The research itself can apparently be made statistically challenging towards the candidate's interests, which sounds appealing. I am not sure if I want to continue in academia after the PhD, but it would preferably be in mathematical statistics or biostatistics.

Would a PhD research with a quantitative psychology group take away this option or make it more difficult, even if the reseach itself is approached from a mathematical statistics view?

  • $\begingroup$ I am uncertain if this needs to be migrated in academia.SE.... $\endgroup$ – usεr11852 Jun 20 '17 at 20:03
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    $\begingroup$ If you really like statistics, do a PhD in statistics. If Psychology is not you are passionate about, pursuing a PhD in that field is a bad idea IMHO. You'll find yourself taking classes you don't care for and attending seminars that bore you. Just follow your heart. $\endgroup$ – Yair Daon Jun 20 '17 at 22:02

when you say quantitative psychology, what do you mean? That is a tremendously varied field. It ranges from things like computational psychology to doing anovas.

In my opinion, the best way to support your career in academia is to create a strong publication record in your desired field of interest. What I mean by this is that if your field of interest is meta-analysis, a college of sociology will be just as happy to have you as a school of nursing.

Dual appointments most certainly exist in academia and are common for statisticians.

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  • $\begingroup$ The research would be on the reproducibility of psychological science, and the level of statistics could apparently be catered to the candidate's interests. The group itself publishes in different kinds of journals, from applied to mathematical statistics. $\endgroup$ – Sanderr Jun 20 '17 at 21:18
  • $\begingroup$ That is a really tricky subject. For one, reproducing some experiments is extremely unlikely due to costs (e.g. fMRI studies where it costs anywhere from $500-1000 per sample collected) and others are difficult to create the lab settings. Now, one area that i have seen gaining traction is analyzing the sample used and seeing the probability of the distribution of the sample actually existing. Some papers have been retracted because of that (i.e. it was found out that the samples are extremely improbable) $\endgroup$ – JWH2006 Jun 22 '17 at 2:46

To echo and further emphasize the statement of Yair Daon in the comments:

If your passion is developing/improving/analyzing methodology, it is important that your thesis will sufficiently reflect that. If your supervisor's expertise is in an application (e.g., psychology), s/he might not be interested in you putting your time into such methodology-heavy investigations. Also, s/he might not be able to adequately supervise you in those studies. If your PhD position is financed by a grant, be sure to check that the grant and its deliverables/work packages are focussed on methodology. Otherwise, you might end up doing simple analyses that don't challenge you at all.

If you want to have some application to your PhD work, then working in a non-mathematics/non-statistics department has an advantage because a mathematics/statistics department might be completely uninterested in practical applications. However, it needs to be crystal clear before starting your PhD that you are actually going to work on methodology and who is going to supervise you in this task.

Side remark: you state that the your interest lies in biostatistics, why going for a psychology PhD?

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your advice. The methodological side of the project appealed to me, the same reason biostatistics interests me. Also the applied nature of the project. $\endgroup$ – Sanderr Jun 23 '17 at 8:47

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