I received a fund that I can use explicitly for paying graduate (master's and doctoral) students for research. These students already receive a stipend from the university, but most advisors who can afford it pay them a supplement. My colleagues just pay a fixed amount per month. However, I am inexperienced in advising students, and I fear I might end up wasting the money on students who do not do their job.
So I thought of making the payment contingent on some research-related task. I do not want to make it contingent on actual research results, since the "flow" of results (particularly in my field - theoretical computer science) is not constant, and the students need a reliable source of income. Instead, I thought of paying the students for reading and summarizing papers and books related to their research topic (up to the maximum amount I can pay per month). There are several reasons:
- Reading is an important part of research.
- Most fresh graduate students do not read enough - they prefer to program. They need an incentive to start reading.
- Reading is a relatively "stable" activity: by putting a sufficient amount of effort, the student can guarantee a fixed income for themselves.
- Summarizing research papers will help the students once they start writing their own papers.
- The summaries can also be useful for me during teaching, as supplementary material for the students.
Is it reasonable to pay research students based on reading & summarizing papers, or for other activities?
- The basic income (before the supplement) may or may not be enough to live on. For students who come straight for undergrad, many are young and still live with their parents. During undergraduate studies they had to pay tuition, so the very fact that they now study for free (even before receiving any money) is a substantial upgrade for them. Other students are older and have children; for them, the basic income paid by the university may be insufficient.