Dear IGDORE researchers and trainees,
I open this thread to start interacting and discussing altogether on a topic that is becoming prominent in our institution: Research Consultancy services provided by IGDORE affiliates.
Within IGDORE Global Board, we have been discussing this project extensively during the last months. This thread conveys our general proposal and aims at involving affiliated researchers and trainees in the shaping of this ambitious project. We believe that only a bottom-up process can ensure that we get on the good track with our consultancy services.
This is a work in progress! We encourage everybody to give their contribution on any aspect of the project. For this purpose, I have structured the thread into sections, highlighting the issues that would mostly benefit from a collective discussion (we may create separate threads for some topics, if required).
Here a short summary of the different topics:
- Project aims and scope
- Legal and economic structure
- List of provided services
- Services costs
- Ethics and mission
Feel free to contribute by commenting here or by contacting me personally (firstname.lastname@example.org).
1. Project aims and scope
Our aim is to create a network of highly trained freelance research consultants. Independent scientists and research trainees affiliated with IGDORE will have the opportunity to make themselves available to work in short, medium, and long-term projects that require the collaboration of an expert in a specific field or the support from specialists in different tasks.
Different types of private and public entities will have the opportunity to hire IGDORE consultants from any part of the world and at fares that will be negotiated based on their economic status, mission, and ethical values.
The project objectives are:
- Provide independent scientists with a source of income in the absence of or in parallel to ongoing research projects.
- Provide independent scientists with the possibility of engaging in different forms of research, not tailored around a personal project, without committing to an office job.
- Finance IGDORE management and initiatives in education.
- Bring the ethics of scientific openness outside traditional research environments (e.g. public agencies, private companies, NGOs)
2. General legal and economic structure of IGDORE consultancy
Consultancy services will be provided through a direct relation between the consultant and the client. IGDORE will serve as:
- portal for clients to navigate available services and get in contact with suitable consultants or teams
- promoter for consultants to find projects
- negotiator of fees, work standards, and ethics with a client
- institution which certifies the competence and credibility of consultants
When a project becomes available, IGDORE contacts a consultant, reviews the project together with them, and proposes a project cost based on previously established models (including a fee towards IGDORE). The consultant and the client are then put in contact and work independently from IGDORE supervision.
This model (freelance consultants with IGDORE acting as an agency/network) requires affiliated researchers and trainees to set themselves up as freelance consultants in their own country of residence and manage their own accounting and taxes.
We know that some of you are already providing similar services and/or are already structured as independent workers in your countries. If possible, we would like you to get in touch with us and provide details on how you structured yourself as independent worker in your country. Together we could create guides for other researchers to easily set themselves up as freelancers in different countries. Thus, your contribution on this topic is essential!
We also know that in some countries it might be especially difficult to work as freelance consultant or to open a small business to legally justify such activity. We would like to help researchers who may encounter this problem by providing advice and guides. We are currently evaluating different options, such as the possibility for a researcher to be hired by IGDORE on a short-term contract (the hiring company is based in Sweden), but we are eager to receive contributions, ideas, and insight on this issue.
About the fee to IGDORE
For all external projects*, a consultant will pay a fee to IGDORE (which will be already integrated in the project cost proposed to the client). These fees will cover the services provided by IGDORE, contribute to its general management and to its investments in other projects. From a more ethical and humanistic perspective, these fees represent one of possible contributions from affiliated researchers to IGDORE existence. IGDORE is a non-profit organisation, but has several costs associated to its functioning (not to talk about possible investments in projects that are in line with IGDORE mission and vision!). Right now, the mere existence of IGDORE is not economically sustainable. We therefore encourage researchers and trainees to see consultancy fees as a way to sustain IGODRE mission and development.
The proposed fee is 20% of the project cost (hence, the final cost = actual project cost + 20% IGDORE fee).
Affiliated researchers who make use of consultancy services (such as research assistance) will not pay any fee to IGDORE, but just the direct cost of the service.
3. Structuring and listing of available services
IGDORE counts several highly skilled affiliated researchers and trainees who belong to disparate scientific fields, and aims to target different types of organisations (public, private, NGOs, associations, etc.). In this landscape, the range of services that we can provide is very wide. However, we need to find ways to structure our knowledge and skills so that it is clear for clients what we do and how. A proposal is to identify few macro-areas and sub-services. Different areas and services might share specific skills and activities. Here a possible categorization:
SCIENTIFIC OPENNESS SUPPORT
This area of services is very much in line with IGDORE’s mission. Types of services are:
- Training in open and replicable science practices
- Theoretical and technical support on one or more practices (e.g. pre-registering a study, make data publicly available, publishing in open access journals and preprints)
- Support for the publication of data articles
- Review of existing work to certify the absence of questionable research practices
PROJECT DESIGN AND EVALUATION
A high level of expertise in empirical science is a very desirable and often needed element in the conception and evaluation of different projects. IGDORE consultants can be involved in the design, development, and evaluation of research and applicative programs in various fields and types of organisations. Here are some examples:
Help with the design and evaluation of applicative (or research) programs in the social domain by collaborating with NGOs, associations, and governmental agencies. Such programs often lack empirical and rigorous procedures. Approaching such programs as experimental paradigms (or clinical trials) could dramatically increase their efficacy and feasibility. Researchers can help establish alternative hypotheses, outcome variables, and evaluative strategies by implementing both quantitative and qualitative research methods.To my knowledge, research skills are more and more requested in this field. In my opinion, it would represent a good market for IGDORE with respect to the number of clients as well as to promote and being in line with IGDORE vision and ethics.
Support research programs aimed at implementing governmental or supranational policies (this is a very wide field and consultancy services are very much required; however, there are many dedicated agencies for that).
Help in marketing studies, products evaluation, etc. Mostly private companies’ contracts (not my favourite, but some can be very interesting and working for the private sector can have its advantages).
These are just a few examples. Feel free to contribute with any ideas. Overall, we should just convey the message that we are a very large pool of highly trained researchers who can contribute in various programs with their knowledge of scientific methods and research skills.
This is a service that is also included in the previous section, but data analysis can also be standalone when data are already acquired. Different fields require different types of data analysis, and within a field analyses are performed at various levels of complexity. Again, a good solution could be to just think of possible scenarios rather than specific activities. For instance:
- Analyse datasets for research groups in traditional academic settings. As you may know, many research projects end up with big amounts of data that sit in drawers of PIs for years (if not decades…). This is because a research group cannot hire enough researchers to work on all possible projects. Often, interns are encouraged to do this job, but the time of an internship is not always enough, and the result is half-analysed data. Therefore, an external consultant who can take care of data analysis and eventually leading a publication process could be a very interesting service.
Again, this is an example; feel free to add your contribution on this topic. Especially, we would like to know what types and levels of expertise in statistics and programming languages are shared by IGDORE affiliates. It would be very useful if each of us could provide a list for their skills in these two subjects (you will probably be prompted to do so via email soon).
IGDORE can offer other specific and/or smaller services that can be performed by research assistants or researchers that are available for these contracts. Available services would include:
- Translations of scientific/technical texts
- Data management
- Data collection
- Simple analyses (e.g. questionnaires scoring)
All IGDORE services can be provided by single researchers. However, for contracts and/or projects that require multiple skills and a bigger workforce, IGDORE can facilitate the creation of a team of consultants (e.g., a couple of researchers and research assistants).
Your contribution on this section 3 is much appreciated. Please let us know if you already provide consultancy services, what kind, and the way they are structured. Any contribution on the proposed services and their structuring is also welcome.
4. Services cost
How much should an IGDORE researcher get paid for a consultancy contract? This is a question that, right now, has no easy answer. IGDORE aims at providing contract to researchers for many different services. For some of them the general market value is missing. Moreover, IGDORE affiliates reside in several different countries with different fiscal laws.
The aim is to propose costs that are competitive, but that can also satisfy IGDORE affiliates, no matter their country of residence. For this purpose, we are scouting the market to identify average costs of some services. Meanwhile, we would like you to contribute to this process by letting us know how much you charge in your existing services or how much you would like to charge for a specific service through IGDORE (it can be an hourly rate or a project-based cost). This could give rise to an open discussion here on the forum. However, feel free to communicate with us privately about this matter.
Finally, the cost of IGDORE services will be negotiated with the client depending on the nature of their organisation (private, public, NGOs), their economic status and country of residency, as well as their ethics and scopes. IGDORE wants to favour entities that follow the principles of open and reproducible science and allow those organisations that have little funding to access high quality consultancy if the outcomes can have a positive social impact.
5. Scientific Openness and Ethics
How do we make sure to provide consultancy services to a broad audience while sticking to IGDORE mission and values? IGDORE requires its researchers to follow a code of conduct and this should be implemented also when working as a consultant. As you may have noticed, most of the proposed services leave space for the implementation of open, reproducible, and ethical research as a consultant. This should be a strength of IGDORE consultancy services: by collaborating in different projects, we can help the establishment of the values on which IGDORE is based in different fields and social domains.
Not all projects will give the possibility to implement the whole range of values and practices promoted by IGDORE. For instance, working for a private company might not allow for a completely open distribution of research results. However, this company might be doing highly ethical work. Some degree of flexibility will be required to handle different projects and allow IGDORE consultants to actually get contracts. However, we should be able to refuse contracts that do not adhere to IGDORE values.
Which type of contracts should IGDORE accept or refuse? What are our degrees of flexibility and on which specific issues? Your contribution on this topic is very appreciated.