A cursory glance on the Web will reveal several freelance marketplaces. A few of them serve as digital job exchanges across fields (Odesk, Elance, Freelancer), and a few others function as exchanges for specialized segments (99designs, Rev). For example, an MBA student can look for consulting work (HourlyNerd) online. A graphic designer can scout for design projects (99designs) from his home. Yet if you’re a PhD or a postdoc, you cannot simply come online and expect to be approached with requests for scientific consulting or statistical review projects. Ironically, the ones excluded from the growing ecosystem of cloud marketplaces are the ones most qualified—PhDs and postdocs.
For long, early career researchers have been recognized as qualified members of academia yet have been forced to survive without the assurance of full-time employment. Only 10% of PhD students go on to secure tenured positions in academia. More, though only marginally, are assured of post-doctoral research positions. The ones who are are staying longer at the same rung, only managing to change labs or become research associates at best. The picture for those opting to move to industry isn’t too rosy either. Fewer PhD recipients than ever have job placements in industry.
What can be done?
To this segment of the knowledge workforce, digital outsourcing of work is a viable additional source of income and experience. Without being bound by budget cuts or locational constraints, PhDs and postdocs can only explore a truly global pool of opportunities. With the launch of Kolabtree, a marketplace aimed specifically at providing avenues on the cloud for PhDs, postdocs, and the broad spectrum of early career researchers, the status quo is about to change.
Where’s the market?
A biotech firm in California might require urgent services that a postdoc in Taiwan would be best placed to provide, or an industrial lab in France might be expressly looking for a specialized chemist located in Australia, or a principal investigator in the US with a limited budget needs a qualified early career data analyst based in India. In regular circumstances, it is difficult to imagine how these parties can work to serve each other. What Kolabtree promises to do in such a situation is free stakeholders from the traditional constraints of geography, career, and payroll management and provide them with a win-win alternative. Early career researchers do not have to pick a career in academia or the corporate world, and similarly, businesses and academia do not have to choose between recruiting qualified personnel locally and abandoning a promising project. They can choose to do both, or neither.
Kolabtree plans to start with a handful of services intrinsic to scientific research and publishing, such as literature search, data analysis, research paper writing and editing, experimental design, scientific consultation, and statistical review. Over the coming months, we will build a pool of PhD -qualified experts across field specializations and geographies who are equipped to handle on-demand research and consulting projects.
It is therefore not unrealistic to expect that a career in academia does not mean relinquishing the perks of industry, or that being the owner of a small business does not equate to being unable to use the brightest talents in academia. Can you think of research-targeted services that would be of value for academia and industry? We would love to know your thoughts in the comments section below.