There is a growing market out there for part-time and/or temporary work in the sciences. Employers have long seen the advantages—savings in overhead and benefits plus greater flexibility in many activities—but now the practice of research is changing, moving toward almost interchangeable scientists performing routine, clearly divided tasks.

At the same time, based on our work in the professional relations office of the American Chemical Society I see an increasing interest in this kind of arrangement among certain groups of scientists. We are moving toward an era of “modularity” of career stages: a preference for easy-in, easy-out, easy-return jobs.

Several forces are making part-time science feasible. As an example, the high-tech end of industrial chemistry is becoming more of a service industry. More chemists are not handling chemicals, but are creating information about highly engineered materials.

With this kind of activity work will be less tied to monitoring processes. And...

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