There is a growing trend towards independent, contract-based employment in the clinical research sector, with more than 84% of respondents in a recent survey saying they would consider becoming contractors in the future.

The survey was conducted for clinical research network Redtree by Anderson Baillie in December 2008. From a sample base of some 6,000 clinical research professionals working across international territories including North America, the UK and Central and Eastern Europe, 10% of the 365 survey respondents were currently operating as independent contractors but 60% had considered becoming contractors in the past.

While the perceived benefits of contracting – better remuneration, independence and flexible working – were offset in the survey by inhibitions about job security and loss of company benefits, 55% of the respondents recognised there was an increasing shift towards contract-based employment in the sector, with more than 20% seeing it as the prevailing dynamic.

This dynamic “seems to concur with the current cycle where large pharma organisations have shed staff in non-core areas to become more ‘agile’”, Redtree comments. For their part, contract research organisations (CROs) “have taken on board clinical research personnel in the open market or via manpower outsourcing deals”, causing “some initial displacement of labour with others embarking on the contracting career path”.

As current demand for clinical trials remains uncertain, CROs may not be able to maintain staffing levels indefinitely as aborted or delayed trials become more prevalent, Redtree warns. If and when demand for clinical trials picks up, though, “hirers are likely to supplement their resource requirements from the growing number of contractors”, it says.