When I was an undergraduate I worked as an unpaid Research Assistant on a couple of psychology research projects. I learned a lot and it was hugely beneficial to me on my degree and subsequent postgraduate and career route. I would encourage any undergraduate to get involved in research. However, I also agree with the argument that people should be paid for the work that they do, and now that I am in a position to be a Principal Investigator I seek funding for these positions.
However, recently I have noticed a problem – because RA posts are paid they have to be advertised and no matter the length of time, money, or requirements of the post, the number of applications from postgrads and postdocs is staggering. Great for me as a researcher, lots of experience on an RA wage. Not so good for the postdoc, but at least it is some money and experience. But what what about the undergrads? Not a hope of beating the postdocs in an application.
Now have the bizarre situation where we can celebrate students not being taken advantage of by creating a situation that none of them can benefit from. It makes me wonder how things would have worked out for me if things had been like this when I was an undergrad.
I’m not pretending to have any answers here but it does strike me as an issue.