THE VIRTUALSCIENTIFICWORKPLACEHow companies can takeadvantage of the networks thatare redefining the industry.Mark A. Lanfear
2 | the virtual scientific workplaceIntroductionThe days of the insular workplace may be globe, and as expertise becomes increasingly themselves a quantum leap forward in theapproaching their end, especially in the scarce and yet more important for reaching advancement of their projects.science industry. As the need to address business goals, access to collaborative, This trend is starting to shape virtualthe global marketplace has arrived, most knowledge-sharing networks becomes vital. networks of all kinds within the sciencecompanies have found they must free A collaborative model in science can add industry. This whitepaper, part of Kellythemselves from the constraints of bricks great value and is now possible in our Service’s® series on the scientific workforceand mortar. Additionally, this means socially connected world. So, scientists— of 2020 and beyond, will explore how virtualembracing the knowledge sharing that is and the companies they work for—can networks are playing a key role in connectinghappening around the world. now collaborate effectively and share their the science industry and allowing companiesAs available economic resources continue to resources if they want to take advantage to re-imagine their workforce models.constrict at science companies around the of this new environment, yielding for
3 | the virtual scientific workplace01. CASE STUDY: SOCIAL MEDIA FOR THE SCIENCE WORLDA more open and less insular science community is already being discussedin the mass media. Considering how guarded the industry has been whenit comes to research and other critical developments, this is big news.The New York Times article, “Cracking Several networks have already received inception in early 2011, membership has that it should be easier in today’s connectedOpen the Scientific Process,” (January 2012) a lot of attention for creating a model of grown to more than 1.3 million users, and world to access scientific knowledge. Lastprofiled several ways in which both new collaboration which others may follow, and about one million publications have been but not least, in a real-world example of howand more seasoned scientists are beginning many have adopted the same or similar social shared so far in a notable example of how the social networking in the sciences can proveto embrace social media and knowledge media tools. traditional scientific journals are now being valuable even to seasoned professionals,sharing as a way of conducting business. The bypassed as an avenue of publication. the online network Sermo.com—the largest ResearchGate.net is one such network,article likened the traditional process of doing online network for physicians—helped one which has gained popularity over the past Other internet sites blazing the trail towardwork in private, then submitting it to journals doctor with a dilemma. year for its ability to easily connect scientific a more open and virtually networkedto be reviewed by peers, and the extreme professionals, allowing them to answer scientific world are MathOverflow.com According to a research study by Deloitte, anlimitation of the flow of information to being questions from peers, share research papers, where mathematicians can ask and answer ER physician wanted to know how to remove“stuck with 17th-century technology”. and find collaborators for future projects. questions, potentially leading to the solving a serrated blade from a patient’s thumbOpen science, say some experts, can Essentially, it is a mash-up of Facebook, of complicated problems much faster and without further damaging surrounding tissue.accomplish much more, much faster, in an Twitter, and LinkedIn for the scientific more efficiently. Sites like The Public Library Within hours the doctors’ online communityenvironment of friction-free collaboration over community. Researchers can share their of Science, or PLoS.org, and arXiv.org posted the answer: “Use a drinking straw splitthe Internet. So what do these scientific photos and profiles, as well as their work, are open-access archives of scientific sideways to lever the blade out of the patientvirtual networks look like on the Internet? with colleagues around the globe. Since its publications, demonstrating the philosophy while protecting the adjacent tissue.”
4 | the virtual scientific workplace02. WHY MOST WORK IS ALREADY VIRTUALThe aforementioned examples of virtual networks in the sciencesare certainly compelling reasons for science companies to at leastbegin to explore more virtual ways of conducting business.There are detractors, however, who note that Similarly, it could be argued that virtually of engaging people outside traditional According to a June 2011, study bythe science world is likely to become one of all work will at some point be, or have workplace constraints and traditional oDesk.com, an Internet start-up and earlythe last industries to fully embrace the virtual many components that are, virtual—that workforce models. In fact, it is not uncommon adopter of the virtually networked workplace,networked model. Changing the status quo is, the global economy is in many ways for many Fortune 500 companies today 54% of employers do not have a preferenceof examining data, authoring papers, and now “borderless,” and that work may to draw 20% or more of their professional regarding where their workers are based.collaborating with scientists in other countries happen anywhere regardless of brick and workforce from a flexible talent pool—talentto come up with solutions, is still more of a mortar location. Conversely, 71% of free agents, or that can increasingly be found through virtualdream than a reality, say some. This is why contracted workers, do not have a Enter the professional flexible workforce— networks that connect companies to the rightlife sciences companies must consider what is preference regarding where their employer the large community of highly skilled “free kind of people with the right kinds of skillshappening in other verticals more generally (or the source of work) is located. By agents” across the globe that can, and want needed for special projects.as the world of work and the workforce in leveraging virtual networks to build a to, work outside the boundaries of traditionalgeneral barrels toward an entirely different This strategy is proving to save time and distributed workforce that is an integral employment engagements and location.model that is likely to be fully adopted by the Various reports predict that half the U.S. money. Additionally, when managed properly, part of a company’s workforce strategy, theyear 2020. As futurists might point out, who workforce, or about 70 million people, will it can elevate the quality of a company’s study showed that more than half of thewould have thought 10 years ago that most of be independent workers by 2020 and that product because of the extremely high level of responding employers were able to growus today would be sharing our entire personal the demand for seasoned skilled workers skills that today’s consultants and flexible staff their business in terms of revenue, size, andlives on websites like Facebook? will grow as companies start to see the value bring to the table. scope of service.
5 | the virtual scientific workplace03. PUTTING VIRTUAL NETWORKS TO USEVirtual networks are simply that: networks.It’s how scientific companies use them collaborative technologies (i.e., virtual that the professionals that scientificthat will ultimately make a difference to networks) that continue to rise, according companies will be looking for ways tothe industry. And every scientific company to the 2012 independent work report tap into these networks to find their by MBO Partners. If companies intend next point of collaboration. Companiescould potentially take advantage of to take advantage of these networks will have to be at the table, then, to locatethese networks in dramatically different to build their workforce models, expert talent as the proliferation of theseways to achieve their individual goals. they must understand them first. work-related social communities allowsIt’s notable that the independent nature With the proliferation of collaborative cloud free agents to find the most desirableof today’s working world is being fueled computing tools, and the types of social projects, to create teams and partnerships,by new social communities and networks discussed above, it is inevitable and to drive professional development.
6 | the virtual scientific workplace04. TAPPING INTO THE TRENDExploring the potential of virtual networks could save companies valuable time andmoney by connecting them to the world’s best talent on a just-in-time basisVirtual workforce networks can allow fastest way to start realizing the benefits. So, bring specialization and innovation to anorganizations to change the scale of their look for firms that can help you identify the organization. It can allow access to resourcesworkforce much faster and with lower fixed proprietary processes that should be kept for variable periods of time that would notcosts—something particularly important for in-house, versus processes that strategically be cost-effective on a full-time or permanentscientific organizations that carry high risk due could be undertaken by a highly skilled, basis. And, because it aims to utilize the externalized workforce solution. right skills at the right time, the approachto heavy investment in untested innovations has the potential to increase job satisfactionand research. The challenge is to make this And remember, there are many benefits for workers who are continually challengednew way of working align with the individual beyond cost reductions that an expert in their primary skill-sets, rather than beingcompany’s goals, as well as the drivers within workforce in the industry can yield. diverted to other tasks.the industry. Finding and collaborating withpartner corporations who already understand Partnering with functional workforcehow these networks operate is the single experts can increase objectivity, as well as
7 | the virtual scientific workplaceconclusionThe virtual networks of today and the possible developments in the future can bealmost anything a company wants them to be. Particularly in the sciences, the mosthighly skilled talent across the globe has only begun to use these networks, and so itwill be critical for scientific companies to not only understand how they work, but to beable to tap into the rich vein of human capital these communities provide in order toincrease their organization’s capacity for innovation and their appetite for discovery.Want more information?This white paper is part of the Kelly Scientific Resources series The Scientific Workforce of 2020 and Beyond.Download this and other papers in the series at kellyscientific.com today.References:1. Lin, Thomas. “Cracking Open the Scientific Process.” New York Times. January 16, 2012.2. “The friend or not?: New insights about social networks in the life sciences industry.” Deloitte research publication. December, 2010.3. oDesk Workforce Survey. Market Wire press release. Jun 28, 2011.4. “Creating Your Flexible Workforce Strategy in the New World of Work.” MSquared Consulting report. 20115. “MBO Partners 2012 Independent Work Predictions.” Report. December, 2011. mbopartners.com