How To Hire Scientific Consultants – Agencies vs Independent Freelance Experts


The pandemic brought about major disruptions across the globe, with the entire world coming to a standstill for a couple of years. However, one of the few silver linings was that it created a new wave of popularity for remote work and the gig economy. The age-old debate of whether remote working was feasible was put to rest, as the world witnessed the flexibility, convenience, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness that working from home brings to both organizations and employees. 

For workers, it meant cutting down on traveling time, spending more time with family, and having more control over their schedule. Since their employees were happier, companies benefited from their increased efficiency at work. It also saved various expenses for the organization, which they would have otherwise incurred in maintaining infrastructure. 

With remote and hybrid working trends increasing, freelance work has aided people in generating more sources of income. Since one could take up any projects based on their capacity, it became easy for people to pursue freelance work, with some academics and industry experts even transitioning to becoming full-time freelance science consultants.

Now, science-related work is no longer restricted to universities and labs. The gig economy has expanded their scope of work, with high technical skills and sophisticated technology at its peak in the modern industrial era. Thus, a scientist with deep niche knowledge possesses the ability to find business solutions.

Moreover, the services they provide are very versatile. From developing a product/service until it reaches customers, a firm can utilize the expertise of scientists to excel in the competitive environment. In the fast-paced, dynamic world, research and development (R&D) play a crucial role in the existence of a business. Scientists design studies for research and development (R&D) for a new product, conduct observational studies, supervise its testing, make recalibrations, etc. They can also create high-quality scientific content and communication tools by designing print or digital media, developing websites, writing blog articles, writing grants, creating scientific evidence, etc. 

These freelance scientists are playing a huge role in assisting a wide range of industries, working closely on medtech, biotech and medical device projects on-demand. This helps these firms lower operational costs and avoid the enormous fixed cost incurred in staff maintenance. Be it product development, medical writing, product positioning or expert consulting, independent freelance science consultants are available to collaborate with as and when the demand arises.

If you’re a medtech or biotech company requiring consistent assistance from a PhD-qualified expert, how do these independent experts weigh up against the traditional route of sourcing consultants through a middle-man agency?

Stakeholder Relationships and Cost-Effectiveness

The most important thing to consider here is the level of effort you’re willing to invest – Approaching an agency means essentially establishing a business-to-business (B2B) relationship, which could become a complex and time-consuming task. The cost of onboarding also involves middle-man fees to be paid out to the agency. This process will also involve extensive paperwork, planning, and involvement of multiple people in making terms of the contract and for deciding upon the course of action for the project.

Considering that the very point of outsourcing was to reduce additional costs and time, going through this extensive process, especially when it comes to establishing new stakeholder relationships, could prove to be a hassle, especially for startups & small and medium-sized businesses.

Working with a freelancer, on the other hand, is a direct relationship between the freelance expert and you. There are no middle men, and you can contact a scientific consultant of your choice directly and receive quotes. It’s also pertinent that independent experts don’t have to bear the overhead cost of infrastructure, licensing, insurance, etc. Since the input cost of freelancers is very low, the fee they charge is significantly lower than that of agencies. 

This pay-as-you-go process cuts out unnecessary fees and paperwork, resulting in a time-efficient and cost-effective process.

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Minimum Duration Contracts for Scientific Consultants

Agency contracts typically include a fixed minimum cost, type of service, and time period for which they would partner with your firm. There would also be the necessity to invest more money and time when you have to renew the terms of the contract or the contract itself.

However, the pertinent issue that arises is that agencies’ services cannot be utilized on a need basis as they have fixed terms with you. Thus, for small and medium businesses, this might not be a resourceful course of action for short-term projects, such as testing ideas or ad-hoc consultancy requirements, that tend to come up often.

Independent freelancers, however, can be collaborated with on-demand, as and when a need arises. This makes them ideal to work with on a pay-as-you-go basis to test new ideas and complete short-term projects, whilst providing the flexibility to hire them on a retainer for longer projects. 

Hiring Scientific Consultants – Wider Options and Scope of Work

An agency has a fixed roster of freelance experts that you can pick from. This might hamper your ability to assess multiple criteria and pick an expert most suited to your requirements. This makes it especially difficult if you are hiring for multiple projects, with each one requiring unique skills and expertise.

Independent freelancers, on the other hand, offer more variety and diversity in terms of options. A freelance platform or expert network typically consists of thousands of profiles, with Kolabtree for instance hosting up to 25,000 freelance experts in its database.

This provides clients the choice to scout and tap into the best PhDs across the globe, and even work with multiple scientific experts on each stage of the project. This choice might prove decisive when it comes to niche consultancy across the product supply chain.

Work Culture and Relationships

Since the type of service and fee that agencies provide is fixed for the sake of standardization, the scientific consultants you work with might have a limited scope to customize as per your vision and requirements. Additionally, the agency might be catering to several businesses at a time, which will deeply dilute their client-centric work approach and might also compromise their client confidentiality. 

Agencies also have their own work ethic and culture, which may not assimilate well with your firm. Thus, they tend to work separately from various stakeholders of the project from the firm, which can result in your project not meeting the vision you envisaged. Further, your options to choose a freelancer are restricted. 

As independent PhDs and freelance scientific consultants are their own businesses, they pay close attention to building good business relations. This gives them greater scope to allocate plenty of time to understanding not only the project requirements, but also your firm’s business model, work culture, organization structure, and people. This helps them to fulfill a project as per client expectations. Their close working relationship also makes them part of the firm, which allows them to grasp the requirements of various stakeholders and complete the project with maximum efficiency

Another merit of hiring freelancers is that freelance platforms usually have pre-defined confidentiality agreements and contracts, but also provide the flexibility for firms to add their own terms and conditions to the NDAs and contracts curated, thus ensuring that client interests and intellectual property are completely protected.

Looking for independent scientific consultants? Browse our top experts.

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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