The Knowledge Economy and Cost-Effective Scientific Consulting: Insights from Freelance PhDs


Before we delve into the intricacies of the knowledge economy, the increase in B2B outsourcing, and how more academics and scientifiques are transitioning to full-time freelancing, let’s look at the developments that led us here.

Traditionally, economic activity was driven by labor and capital but, as the human race progressed, we achieved great feats in technology. Today we require knowledge and intellect to develop and operate advanced technology for driving business and the economy. 

Here’s where the slow gradual shift from the ‘gig’ economy to the ‘knowledge’ economy occurs, with flexible, on-demand work not restricted to just gig workers. Now, the B2B ecosystem is starting to explore this development as well, looking to outsource technical work in a bid to keep organizations lean and access expertise from across the globe.

Comme travail à distance and hybrid workforces continue to flourish, more academics, researchers and scientists are gravitating towards on-demand consulting, empowering themselves by choosing their own hours and projects.

The boom of freelancing as a career led to this change and resulted in a nexus between the knowledge economy and gig economy.

For businesses, this has been rewarding in its own way. Organizations that need these scientists the most, such as Medtech and Biotech firms, have experimented with on-demand collaborations on freelance platforms teeming with these independent scientists, such as Kolabtree and Upwork. The chance to build highly flexible and lean hybrid teams, made up of PhD-holding scientific consultants that can be hired on a pay-as-you-go basis, offers these companies a chance to cut costs and improve efficiency.

So, how does freelancing within the ‘knowledge economy’ actually shape up? We spoke to a few independent consultants on Kolabtree, to hear their thoughts on remote working, freelance consulting and client collaborations.

Dr. Arianna Ferrini – Medical and Scientific Consultant on Kolabtree

Dr. Arianna Ferrini holds a PhD in clinical research medicine, and is a freelance scientific and rédacteur médical on Kolabtree. During the lockdown, she chanced upon the platform and signed up as an independent science consultant, and there’s been no looking back. She started off with blogs and online magazines, gradually moving on to her area of expertise in neuroscience, and working on publishing medical and soins de santé content. 

She says, “At the moment, I feel there are enough opportunities in freelancing. The pandemic has taught us that scientists and communication scientifique is important, and I can see in the fact that I have clients from all over the world. My perception is that it’s becoming apparent that freelancers have niche skills that are more cost-effective to outsource rather than build in-house, such as Rédaction médicale."

Dr. Hugo Lisboa – Food and Biomaterials Scientist on Kolabtree

Dr. Hugo Lisboa holds a PhD in polysaccharides, and transitioned to full-time freelance scientific consulting amidst the pandemic too, and started picking up food formulation projects on Kolabtree. He recently completed 100 on-demand projects on the platform, which encompasses a wide variety of work, including coming up with a vegan egg recipe which helped his client launch a kickstarter fund for the company. 

On remote working and hiring freelance scientists, he says, “Les petites entreprises, en particulier, doivent optimiser les possibilités de travail à distance. Elles n'ont pas les moyens de s'offrir une solution haut de gamme Département de la recherche et du développement. Ils ont de très bonnes idées, mais qui va les développer ? Une plateforme comme Kolabtree peut facilement fournir des experts indépendants de travailler sur leurs idées d'une manière rentable et de résoudre un énorme problème ici".

Dr. Rosalie Constable – Geoscientist on Kolabtree

Dr. Rosalie Constable est titulaire d'un doctorat en Sedimentology and 18 years of experience in applied sciences. On the concept of freelance scientific consulting, she says, “I definitely think remote collaboration is here to stay. It was already starting to become more common – we regularly worked with remote consultants in my previous company – but it is now much more widely accepted and has made many people realize how much can be achieved when teams work remotely.”

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Rosalie also makes a great point on the benefits companies can get out of hiring freelancers, saying, “For start-ups and small businesses, platforms like Kolabtree are a great way to connect with qualified and experienced scientists who can help rapidly progress their ideas without the commitment and expense of hiring a specialist or big consultancy firm. I expect this could help drive innovation too, as testing ideas doesn’t necessarily have to come with huge upfront time and cost commitments.”

Dr. Ahmed Elewa – Freelance Biologist on Kolabtree

Dr. Ahmed Elewa, a biologist and bioinformaticien who worked on doctoral research with a Nobel laureate, quit his job in 2019. Eventually, he started to take up freelance consulting projects on Kolabtree. During the pandemic, he started a company called Colorna, which was responsible for development of a rapid OTC test for Covid-19.

On freelancing, he says, “There’s a lot of intellectual capital that Kolabtree and others can tap into. Imagine if you can hire a scientific freelancer to do something with the same ease that you can order test tubes! Outsourcing science projects can help new and small labs get their projects moving without having to commit to hiring a full-time postdoc right away.”

Victoria Ware – Freelance Medical Writer and Scientific Consultant on Kolabtree

Victoria Ware, a freelance medical writer and scientific consultant on Kolabtree, is the perfect example of making the most out of the gig economy. She was pursuing her Master’s degree while racing as a professional cyclist around Europe. One of her cycling sponsors asked her to write a scientific evidence based blog on cycling, given her sciences de la vie background. This promoted a transition transition for Victoria, and she began taking up scientific, technical and medical writing work. 

On remote working, she says, “What I really like about being freelance is the variety of projects I get to work on, and the insight I get into the way different organizations and teams work. I’m motivated by a challenge and by learning new things, so I wouldn’t say I prefer one kind of writing over another, but I really enjoy the variété de projets and the challenges each provides.”

What are your thoughts on remote working, and outsourcing scientific work to pay-as-you-go independent consultants scientifiques? Let us know in the comments.

Kolabtree helps businesses worldwide hire freelance scientists and industry experts on demand. Our freelancers have helped companies publish research papers, develop products, analyze data, and more. It only takes a minute to tell us what you need done and get quotes from experts for free.

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