Monday, March 17, 2014

Anybody know anything about PreScouter?

From the inbox, an alert to an interesting company called PreScouter, which seems to do science/technology-related consulting using graduate students and postdocs. From their recruiting information sheet:
Q: What is the main function of the Global Scholars Program? 
A: The goal of our Global Scholars program is a) to provide current academics with an opportunity to make valuable networking relationships while building their CV and b) to assist in our goal of connecting academia with industry. Our founders were grad students -- when they created this program and wanted to provide an opportunity they felt was not available to them during their studies. 
Q: How much time does a project take? 
A: Each of our projects run anywhere from 4 - 6 weeks in length. On average, Scholars spend between 15-30 hours for the duration of the project, which breaks down to about 5-6 hours per week. For each project, there are three (3) one-hour meetings that we ask our Scholars to attend. 
Q: What is the commitment of a Global Scholar? 
A: The amount of time that you are a part of our program and the amount of projects that you work on with us is entirely your decision. You are not obligated to a minimum amount of time or number of projects. We only ask that if you select a project, you must see it through completely. 
Q: What are some of the benefits of being a Scholar? 
A: Direct connections to Global Innovation leaders at Fortune level companies, which has led to employment. Gaining industrial experience. Networking with other Scholars. Project Management Certification through the Project Management Institute. And for our Scholars without funding restrictions, we do offer a small financial gift at the conclusion of each project.
I'm a little bit skeptical of their business model (basically picking the brains of grad students and postdocs for open-ended corporate research questions), but much like Innocentive, it could be fun and it could be useful. It's probably a lot more lucrative for the company than it is for the student/postdoc, for sure.

Does anyone have experience with PreScouter?  

35 comments:

  1. anon electrochemistMarch 17, 2014 at 4:07 PM

    I was interested, until I hit "Participation in our program is unpaid/voluntary ". Consulting for free 5-6hrs a week is not what I had in mind.

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    1. Thanks for everyone’s enthusiastic interest!

      The work of PreScouter’s Scholars has proven to be of high value to dozens of satisfied Fortune 500 companies. PreScouter’s clients have shaped their technology roadmaps and even entered into strategic partnerships based on the work of our Scholars.

      We definitely pay our Scholars for their amazing work! They’re paid on a tiered scale based on level of experience and past success in the program. We leave the option of pro-bono participation open to accommodate individuals on international visas that prohibit income.

      Aside from compensation, Scholars gain invaluable real-world industry experience that allows them to sharpen their skills and broaden their knowledge both within and beyond their chosen fields of study. Their experiences with PreScouter are like mini-internships that can be added to their CVs to help set themselves apart from their peers, and all of this can be done without ever having to wear a tie - or even a collared shirt.

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  2. I decided to ask a couple questions after receiving a few recruitment-ey emails from them. I, like anon electrochemist, stopped at "The goal of our program is to provide our Scholars the opportunity to gain the necessary tools to be competitive in the future job market. Since participation is voluntary and not a paid position, there should be no conflict."

    I was under the impression that my graduate level education was (arguably?) supposed to make me competitive in the future job market. Grad students are overworked as it is, and I'd like to think that I have better things to do with my spare time than to provide pro-bono consulting work for companies that can more than likely afford to pay for it.

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    1. Umm, you and the 50 million other chem PhDs....

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    2. Terrible company - owned by an indian guy called Dinesh Ganesarajah, dont expect more than $10 / h for the work you do !!
      Unclear work schedule - if you are a hiring company think twice - whau type of sane professional will do a geat job when their compensation is in the limbo - also any company hiring them should be insane! prescouter hires from india and all over the works then ry to sell the service to USA - there is no Intellectual property protection what so ever -

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  3. Hmmm, just saw this: "And for our Scholars without funding restrictions, we do offer a small financial gift at the conclusion of each project." - maybe they got the idea (my interaction with them was from last July)...

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  4. Conversely, I doubt this kind of work is of much value to companies. I can't imagine any serious organization relying on this for any business decision.

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    1. Actually, open innovation is used by R&D execs and product development teams in almost every large company these days. It's no longer about who you have on staff, rather who you have access to outside your four walls.

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  5. science was once done by the idle wealthy and the clergy, i.e. those who didn't have to work to eat. just sayin'...

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  6. This is serious job, really, a lot of money spent on researching and quality assurance leads of the companies that will get in touch with the scholars in the program. And scholars cannot flunk. This is not kid's play.

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  7. WHAT A SICK JOKE! These people should be condemned to hell.
    tee hee hee "let's exploit an already overworked, underpayed and well educated population." & let's do so by sending them emails congratulating them for getting into a good institution and then "Inviting" them to perform free labor.
    Really. If you're a graduate student you should do yourself an immediate favor by requesting to be 'Unsubscribed'. This man Duke from Prescouter just won't stop until you respond.

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  8. These are really good questions. I keep getting emails from prescouter trying to recruit me but I can't find any information on what it's actually like to work with these people.

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  9. Wait, so someone thinks you might have some cool ideas to share about technology, will listen to you, and pay you, and you are against it? If you want to find people to check out-- just google or use LinkedIn to find people who have been a scholar and ask about it.... sheesh. due diligence folks!
    I have done this work, gotten paid, and been able to learn some cool new stuff....

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  10. I also have done some Prescouter work, I think its pretty fun learning about industrial topics that I would have never have bothered to delve in.
    Its only a couple hours of work for a project, and I'm glad I have the opportunity of putting this on my CV.

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    1. Would you like to send me an e-mail describing, in general terms, what you did? E-mail me at chemjobber -at- gmail[dot]com

      Confidentiality guaranteed.

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    2. As of today, I have still not gotten a response to my query.

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    3. You haven't received any response from Anonymous because s/he is busy sending emails recruiting grad students to work for free.

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  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  12. I work for them and they are serious, there are real companies with real problems that ask for advice. You are tipically in a team of five or six people and you have to read a bit of papers and patents to provide advice to the company. I find it is quite a bit of work to complete a project but you get to see how companies work and you can expand your knowledge of relevant subjects that are a bit out of your field. They tipically pay around 150 dollars per project, which is not much compared to the time you put in it but normally people do that for the experience and to put it in the CV.
    After saying this, if you are already overloaded for your phd it's probably not a good idea to start working with them.

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    1. 'Tipically'

      Hard to believe you're a grad student.

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  13. Like @Sean above, I also keep getting emails from Duke. I once gave in and let him call me to learn more about what they are doing. At the time, it was unpaid labor. He also told me that I would not be able to know what companies I did work for. I told him it was unfair that I would have to (1) work for free and then (2) have no idea who I did the work for. He couldn't respond to my criticism and so decided to hang up the phone while I was talking. According to @Anon above, now they shell out a whopping $150 for months of your effort. In my opinion, there are better ways to make money and have something respectable to put on your CV.

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  14. Sounds like they pocket all the profit: http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/kwo/sum13/brave-thinkers/dinesh-ganesarajah.htm

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  15. Thank you all for posting here. This may well have saved me (and presumably many others) a great deal of time.

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  16. Looking at the Prescouter "team" webpage. They have little to no industry experience amongst them.
    I've worked Deep R+D in the semiconductor world for 15 years. A green, pre-grad student is not going to
    help me answer fundamental business/tech questions..and certainly not with guidance from a company with no relatable business experience.

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  17. It seems like https://hourlynerd.com/ is a much better experience for grad students.

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  18. i worked as an intern in content marketing for prescouter and it was really great. i actually DID get paid, which was a huge anomaly in a university town (evanston/chicago), especially for a writer. i had a few questions as to why a phd student would actually want to work with prescouter, but the pay seemed really reasonable, and we had contests/giveaways and networking opportunities for the students every once in a while. and also, once the students developed a working relationship with the startup, they found the process much faster and easier, bigger bang for your buck basically. they definitely cut corners in some areas (ie, staring at a depressing brick wall in the sparse incubator office), but the professional development was excellent... it's been a couple of years and i'm still finding people in the workforce who haven't caught on to the inbound marketing that we were using.

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  19. I worked there as a Scholar and the reality is that they only pay postdocs and grad students $150 per project (if you are international student you don't get paid), each project takes 6-8 weeks. You have to search 3-5 solutions (research articles, patents, etc.) for a total of 3 meetings (total: 9-15 solutions), to the scientific problem that the client has. Although, it sounds easy it really takes a lot of time to find each solution because the client has certain requirements for the solution, and after each meeting gets harder and harder to find exactly what the client wants. You are also expected to attend 3 meetings of 1-1.5 hours each and present your solutions.

    I think they also have real employers in their facilities and I assume that those are paid more. But I think the driving force are the underpaid scholars. They do not provide access to databases or journals, but you are expected to use them, that is why they recruit students and postdocs because they have access to their universities' journal subscriptions. I am just curious to know how much do Prescouter gets paid for each project? and why they pay nothing to their scholars?

    I will be happy to answer any other questions you may have

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    1. I worked with them and it was a disaster - they used freelancer.com and put some money in the escrow and then their owner (from India) as soon as I delivered my part tried to cancel the project asking me to use their own app. very dishonest people avoid them

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  20. I have done about 15 prescouter projects in the last 2.5 years. I've always gotten paid, between $100 and $150. I was often selective about which projects I signed up for: if it was a field I was familiar with or had experience with with in the past, the project would take less than 10 hours so I could consider that financially worthwhile, relative to how much I get paid per hour as a research assistant in a lab. I also made sure to pick projects I actually found interesting and wouldn't get exposed to as a PhD student, subjects like the Internet of Things, nonchemical disinfection methods, adhesives, essentially everyday problems that can be resolved with science. As far as whether it's of any benefit to the company, I think that most internal R&D groups in companies don't have time to explore university research for solutions to their problems. They also don't have much awareness, in my experience, of technology transfer from universities. That's where the utility of Prescouter's work lies. I wouldn't call it a scam by any stretch of the imagination. It is, however, a lot of work, as the previous poster describes, especially if you're diving into a new subject area.

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  21. "I think that most internal R&D groups in companies don't have time to explore university research for solutions to their problems. They also don't have much awareness, in my experience, of technology transfer from universities."

    I am skeptical of this statement, but only a little. Depends on the size of the corporation, I suspect.

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    1. Well, I have worked with PreScouter on 15 projects. I am an international student outside of US and I get paid for each project. PreScouter does have additional incentive program: 3 projects = PMI membership, 6 projects=an e-learning course on project management provided by PMI, 12 projects=an attempt of CAPM exam. If you search people with PreScouter experience in LinkedIn, you can find we are real people and we do deliver and solve problems for the clients. And I have worked with clients from both big and small companies.

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    2. An indication of the profit margin on these projects, apparently.

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    3. I won't say the payment meets what I have delivered. However I personally regard this PreScouter experience as a good professional development opportunity. The time is flexible. The training, both from PreScouter and from PMI, is valuable. And it is good to add to my resume, especially when I do not want to enter academia after the graduation.

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  22. I saw someone mention HourlyNerd.

    In my experience HourlyNerd has a business model that chews through consultants. The senior leadership uses phone calls to bully consultants to take projects and not quit projects even when the clients change the scope after the price/deliverables have been agreed.

    HourlyNerd treats consultants like employees when they want to coerce them to do projects for bad clients, but they classify consultants as independent contractors officially so they are not liable for any taxes, insurance, or other common responsibilities that companies have for employees.

    In particular, I have found the senior leadership of HourlyNerd dishonest. I started to do some research and I found almost all the top guys, including the founders, were banking guys - NOT consultants. Rob Biederman may claim he worked at Bain, but his formation years in the working world were with a top investment bank. That characteristic of manipulating, rule breaking, conniving, hubristic, and fundamentally dishonest behavior all fits the banking mold. Everything made sense once I realized that bankers run HoulyNerd, not consultants.

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