During the internships in the third semester the students work as research assistants, supervised by an experienced researcher at the institute or university where they are 'employed'. This introduces the students to the specific challenges of contract research and research assignments in non-academic institutional contexts. There are two types of research internships: 1. Research internships in knowledge-intensive institutes or NGOs that are related to science, technology and culture 2. Research internships in universities and other academic research institutes. In both kinds of internships students are ‘employed’ as research assistants in projects that they have not primarily defined themselves. They do research in real-life settings on problems that typically have a clear external, societal relevance. The internships are not ready-made and off-the-shelf. During the second semester of the first year the CAST Director of Studies engages in a gradual process with each student: formulating research and societal interests, selecting potential internship institutions, contacting these institutions, and formulating with student and intended local supervisor the internship research project. Students organize their own funding for these internships, assisted by the Director of Studies.
The purpose is to learn to collaborate with other researchers and support staff, and learn to cope with (sometimes very different) national and institutional cultures. They learn to meet deadlines and to adapt their standards of completeness to what is reasonably possible within a given timeframe. They learn to balance ‘external’ demands of timeliness and relevance with ‘internal’ criteria of scholarly quality.