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Research internship – a good balance

By Lateef Akanni - Posted on 18 January 2023

Lateef Akanni decided that doing an internship as part of his Economics PhD would give him a better balance of theoretical research and practical application. Here, he explains why others should consider doing the same.

When we are too focused on our PhD research, we can easily forget that there is a world outside of the PhD and our core area of research focus. Hence, my decision to participate in a research internship. I was motivated by the fact that doing an internship, especially on something that is not directly linked to my PhD research area would avail me the opportunity to learn about new realms of research and identify possible opportunities for a future career. 

I participated in the Scottish Graduate School of Social Sciences (SGSSS) Internship in the Summer of 2022. The internship is open to all social sciences PhD students from all the SGSSS partnering universities across Scotland, and it is a paid opportunity for up to three months with calls for application usually twice a year. The programme also accommodates the different peculiarities of international students, especially those on Tier 4 Visa with limits to their weekly work hours, by allowing them to undertake the internship on a part-time basis for up to 6 months. 

Another merit of the SGSSS internship is the seamless electronic application process which involves providing information such as personal details, CV, PhD discipline, study period and a statement of support from PhD Supervisor. It also allows the applicant to select the internship host of choice from among the several advertised project titles. Additionally, applicants are allowed to submit applications for up to five internships and into a general pool, which further encourages and enhances the chances of being selected. 

I participated in the Internship for six months, working in the Scottish Government within the Social Care Analytical Unit. The unit comprises social researchers, statisticians, operational researchers, and economists, all of whom are interested in using data and evidence to support and inform policy decisions in Scotland’s social care sector. I benefitted from contributing to research and evidence on a major Scottish Government policy reform, the National Care Service (NCS), which was aimed at improving the quality of social care services across Scotland. 

The interactions and support received from the entire team where I worked exposed me to understanding research in the real world as it relates to public policies and decisions. I also learned how to adjust to a different workplace hierarchy. More importantly, the internship provides me with opportunities to make new networks and connections. For example, I had the opportunity of meeting other Economists working in the Government Economic Service (GES). I also benefitted from interacting with people in the policy team within the Scottish Government. 

Overall, I strongly encourage current PhD colleagues and others who are starting their PhD degree journey soon to include the plan to undertake an internship or other opportunities to acquire skills and work experience. It is a good addition to our CV as graduate research students, and if you are well-devoted, it can make the difference in meeting the right network and getting that dream job after the PhD. 

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