Should a PhD be paid for work for a company.

11-Jun-20, 09:25
by nutria
Avatar for nutria
posted about 1 month ago
I'm a PhD student in a medical field. My supervisor is cooperating with some AI companies. There is a joined project that will result in the patent and also a publication where we are doing most of the wet lab work. There is also an agreement signed between company and my university. I am supposed to join and do some work within the project but so far I've only talked with my PI and a project leader that this publication could be in my thesis.
Now, I am wondering if I should ask for a financial compensation as well (or being added to the patent?). From what I understand the company is covering some costs of the experiments and is paying the project leader as well.
It is still early phase of me joining the project so I am wondering how to go about this conversation and what to ask.
As a PhD I am employed by the university and getting a PhD salary.

Maybe someone had similar experience? Any advice?
11-Jun-20, 13:38
edited about 9 seconds later
by Nead
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posted about 3 weeks ago
I don't think you can ask for financial compensation, especially if this work will go into your thesis. A lot of students work in collaboration with industry and don't get paid additional monies for it.
Do you need this work for your PhD? As in is it directly related to your project? If so I don't think they will pay you, as it benefits your thesis.
If its a side project (completely different and will take time away from your own studies), that you have been asked to help on you might have a chance of getting paid. However than may say no, leaving you in an awkward situation. But if they haven't mentioned to you about getting paid, I doubt you are.
11-Jun-20, 15:07
edited about 18 seconds later
by rewt
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posted about 3 weeks ago
Hi nutria,

If the company is partially funding the research project and the research is part of your PhD, they are in a sense funding part your PhD and thus your part of your salary. I think asking for compensation would be rather awkward as you are already benefiting from them via a better thesis. It would be different if the research was unrelated to your thesis.

I have had some experience with working with cheap companies. About half way through my PhD I did some experiments for an SME. I did some tests on their product and then did my own research with the samples they provided. All they gave me was the samples and a lot of lab reagents. They got a copy of the data and I got a thesis chapter (and hopefully part of a paper). It has improved my thesis significantly and the company saved money.
13-Jun-20, 01:53
by abababa
Avatar for abababa
posted about 3 weeks ago
If this is a UK question, it's unfortunately rare that extra work or income generation = bonus. As a prof, you can bring in a million+ grant, and probably will not see any of it directly - rather some of your existing hours will be assigned to manage it.

If you weren't stipended, you might have a case to ask; as you are, it would generally be unlikely you'd be able to argue for extra money, unless the work is completely unrelated to your PhD.

As a stipended student you probably also signed an agreement that the IP you generate belongs to the University. You're then trying to negotiate backwards from an existing arrangement - this can work if you're willing to walk away from the table, but rarely will if you aren't.

In terms of actionable advice:

> The first thing in project management that academics are terrible at is identifying sub-tasks and costing. Work out exactly what you're expected to do (this will probably take some effort in itself; expect woolly, frustrating answers), and 'cost' it in hours.

> Look at this and ask 'does it help my PhD'. If yes, then it's probably still worth doing for free.

> If 'no', make sure you have a strong argument why it's irrelevant. Take it to PI/DoS, and explain 'I'm happy to do x, but y seems like a lot of extra work, which is not related to my PhD because of z'.

> Follow up with, if you wish 'But i'm happy to do y, it fits my skill set; however, it would have to be on a contractor basis and I could only work n hours on it'

It's important if you do this you don't propose unrealistic hours, considering your PhD is already an FT job.
13-Jun-20, 08:20
edited about 18 seconds later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 3 weeks ago
nutria, if you don't ask you definitely won't get.
It is very common for PhD with an industrial partner to attract a much higher stipend than a normal EPSRC stipend. Some of them are around £20k tax free.

You should certainly ask assertively about this. I definitely would.
You'll be limited to what you can publish and that comes at a price.
01-Jul-20, 17:24
edited about 2 seconds later
by nutria
Avatar for nutria
posted about 1 week ago
Thank you everyone for the comments and advice!

It got me thinking because I've seen some agreements that the company paid to the group for the work done before (the reagents and hours). But I guess that goes to the budget and is redistributed according to the contracts. The project is somehow within my thesis interest so as you say I wasn't having big expectations and now I have even less.
Still I'll try to ask politely where the money goes, would be nice to get at least some to spend on other experiments concerning my projects :D
02-Jul-20, 14:20
edited about 11 seconds later
by sunra
Avatar for sunra
posted about 6 days ago
I was offered a PhD position which required the student to carry out shift work in a government-run physics lab. The compensation was $800 per month. Not great but better than nothing. In this case the work was not directly related to the thesis, but students conducting thesis work in the lab were expected to put in time to help run it. At the end of the day, if you value your work you should inquire about compensation. But as you say, politely :)


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