PIPS Q&A for Supervisors

Why are PIPS important?

This is a core part of the student’s PhD and is fundamental to the success of the White Rose DTP. Professional Internships for PhD Students (PIPS) aim to provide BBSRC funded PhD students with the opportunity to carry out a non-academic work experience placement during their PhD. Such experience is important both to help early career researchers understand the context of their research and to expose them to the range of opportunities available to them after they graduate.

When should the internships take place?

PIPS are bespoke to each student and thus there is a great deal of flexibility around when the student should undertake their placement (subject to the needs of the host organisation).  A placement can be started any time after the student has successfully passed their transfer viva and upgraded and be completed by the end of their third year.  It is expected that PIPS planning will be carried out with the student and supervisor in order to minimise disruption to research/fieldwork etc.

Why are PIPS not related to the student’s research?

PIPS are not about doing more research. For all internships, the experience may not be directly related to the student’s PhD project. PIPS are intended to help students understand how their research and professional skills can be used in a more broadly relevant context. Research roles in academia or research institutes are generally not appropriate, even in an area unrelated to the student’s PhD project. However, if it can be demonstrated that a predominantly research-based placement would provide a sufficiently different environment for the student then they may be considered.

What is the duration of the PIPS?

PIPS must be the equivalent of 3 months. Each student has the option to do the placement in either a 3-month block or as a series of shorter blocks over a longer period of time. This can be a discussion between you and your student and will also be dependent on the nature of the placement and the needs of the host organisation.

Where can I get help with placements?

Our PIPs scheme is organised by all three White Rose Universities. In each University there are staff who are responsible for the Training and Development of PhD students and co-ordinate activity at a local level. Please get in touch with your relevant contact when your student is starting to plan their placement for the necessary paperwork and guidance:

University of Leeds – Clare Green (C.J.Green@leeds.ac.uk)

University of York – Amanda Barnes (amanda.barnes@york.ac.uk)

University of Sheffield – Sandrine Soubes (s.soubes@sheffield.ac.uk)

Will the quality of a student’s PhD be affected by an internship?

No – it is vital that PhD programmes prepare students to use and develop a range of research-related skills outside the academic research environment. These skills will then help students to become better researchers or could be used in related careers, by understanding the broader context of their research. Most PhD students complete their PhD in less than four years so the internships should not affect the time students have to complete their studies. Increasingly, academic examiners understand that a good quality PhD should not just be measured on volume of research, but involves the development of the individual as a researcher.

Will PIPS affect my institutes submission rate?

No. PIPS should be taken within the standard four year period for a full-time PhD programme, and students should be expected to submit within this period as normal.

How will students benefit from taking an internship?

There are lots of reasons for taking an internship. These include:

  • providing direct experience of working in a professional environment that does not directly relate to their PhD project
  • making a positive contribution to the work of their host organisation(s) by, for example, managing a non-research project, developing policy, undertaking a discrete research project in industry, enthusing the next generation of researchers, and communicating science to a broader audience
  • helping students to understand the wider context of their research
  • giving students the opportunity to consider the direction that their career might take after completing their PhD, and broadening their horizons of the areas where their training can make a distinctive contribution
  • building confidence and making students more well-rounded individuals
  • giving students a chance to see the ‘big picture’ of their research and making them better researchers as a consequence.

What will my institute gain from the PIPS scheme?

The benefits of the PIPS scheme to the research organisation include:

  • building collaborations with non-academic partners
  • linking research with policy-making, business or the public
  • demonstrating the wider context of research
  • promoting the excellence of the institution to prospective students and employers by managing a range of fulfilling internships.

What about students with disabilities?

The needs of students with disabilities should be considered during the organisation of internships within institutions. All students funded from the DTP Training Grant are expected to carry out an internship at some point during their PhD.