The preliminary results of the initial study aiming to explore how science-based gig workers experience their work, the challenges they face, and the extent to which their working lives are characterised by positive and negative work perceptions have been released.
The research was titled, “Understanding the Work of Independent Scientists,” and was conducted by Kolabtree, a freelance platform for scientists, in collaboration with an international social science research team led by Brianna Caza at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Susan Ashford at the University of Michigan, Erin Reid at McMaster University, and Steven Granger at the University of Calgary.
542 independent scientists on Kolabtree took the survey, and the respondents had been working independently for an average of four and a half years.
- 79% of freelance scientists say they work independently by choice. Kolabtree respondents were highly educated, and worked in a variety of industries including pharmaceuticals, food science, medical science, biology, and psychology.
- 73% of scientists said that they turn to freelancing to have the ability to work across geographical boundaries. Respondents were spread across the globe, with 41% working in North America and 22.5% living in Europe.
- Over 90% said that flexibility is highly important.
- 85% want to choose the projects they work on.
- Over 50% of respondents took up freelance work only in their area of specialisation.
- 42% said their independent work was a mix of gigs both inside and outside of their specialisation.
- 56% of freelance scientists are optimistic about the future of the science gig economy.
- 27% said that they planned to make the switch from a traditional career to full-time freelance work, while 12.3% did not, and 21% were unsure if they would make the switch.
- 37% of respondents were earning between $35,000 and $100,000, 35% earning less than $20,000 per year, 16% earning between $20,000 and $34,999, and approximately 8% earning over $100,000.
- Approximately 17% of respondents (n=81) said that they earned more in their freelance work than they had previously in a traditional role, 12% (n=55) earned about the same, 39% ( n=184) earned less than they did in a traditional role.
Ashmita Das, CEO and co-founder at Kolabtree, commented on the results: “The findings from the survey shows that scientists are actively looking for freelance opportunities where they can contribute their skills and expertise.
“The fact that scientists value flexibility, freedom and the ability to have control over what projects they take up is of great benefit to businesses looking to collaborate with experts across geographical boundaries.”
Independent scientists face multiple challenges including a lack of career security, financial unpredictability, and intellectual loneliness. These findings are from the initial part of a longer research study being conducted by Caza’s team. The research group will continue to study the challenges that independent scientists face, and the factors (socioeconomic, job characteristics, individual characteristics) that impact their experience, and their responses to these challenges.
Subsequent results will also explore the impact of the pandemic on remote/independent working for scientists and researchers.
Caza explained how the team’s interest is in “identifying the psychological, behavioural, and social factors that help independent scientists to bounce back from setbacks and thrive amidst the challenges of independent work.”