Unpaid research work

For years there has been concern in the research world about ethics of paying people to participate in research, whether it is necessary and how much is appropriate. In social care research there is a growing expectation that those who access services should receive some sort of payment or honorarium for participation in research work. This seems completely reasonable to me, if people give their time they should be rewarded accordingly.

Therefore I was a little concerned when I looked into the latest addition to research jobs added to Guardian Jobs today. Having been involved with recruitment for a couple of projects recently I’ve been interested to see what else is out on the market. Today I did a search on Guardian jobs and found the following:

There were 99 jobs added in the last day, when ‘research’ was the search term. Over half of them (53 jobs) were unpaid, voluntary posts or interns and a couple more just offered expenses as a daily rate.

Maybe I’m over egging this, but that’s over half of those posts being offered without pay. I’m sure that the experience will be valuable for people, and I’m sure there are other perks to such a role, but I can’t help but think people are taking advantage of the current economic climate to get some cheap labour. I’m also not convinced that it will do research, it’s reputation or uptake, any real benefit if people without the relevant skills or experience are involved. I’m not doubting there will be some very well qualified people applying for these posts, it’s a tough job market at the moment, but it doesn’t feel right to me.

What do you think? Have you been an intern/are you an intern? Do you have interns and voluntary workers working for you?

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