I'm looking to outsource some tasks to a freelancer, but I need someone relatively qualified to do scientific research. Is this something for which I could use oDesk or a similar site? How do I validate their expertise and ability?
Let me give an example. Let's say that I want to product a new nutrition app, but I want to base my app in scientific research. In that case, I would want to have a freelancer collect (or direct the collection) of available studies, parse them, make sense of them, and then create an outline of findings (with references). Knowledge of the specific domain (here, nutrition) would not be required.
I have had similar needs to what you have described before, but having only 1 person or even a few people scour the literature for you is not as efficient as going with more of a crowdsourced labor approach. A colleague of mine has developed a very sophisticated platform where you can subdivide and subtask out what you are doing with a labor pool of thousands who can dissect a huge body of data in hours to days per your specification (versus months to years). What he has come up with is truly revolutionary, and it is called Alegion (alegion.com). Message me if you'd like a personal introduction with the founder - his solution is very cost effective, and it's just what you're looking for.
Mmmm...I wouldnt go to Odesk necessarily. I went to the Ed School at
Harvard and there are a lot of poor PhDs looking for extra income this
summer. Make a list of the best programs in whatever field you are in and
post on their job boards. This is usually free and I hired a curriculum
designer for $1000. A masters student can easily do what you're asking and
can have domain experience.
Decision & Data Scientist / Experimental Psychologist / Business Intelligence
May 21st, 2013
My recommendation would be to go old-school (so to speak) in this case --
reach out to either the department heads or specific professors in the
field relevant to your app at local universities. They'll likely help you
find someone who can do the job and who can use the experience. If the grad
student is smart, they may even be able to snag a credit-hour out of the
project, or possibly even discover their thesis or dissertation project.
While I understand what you're saying that knowledge of the specific domain
isn't required, you're likely to get better work out of someone whose
interests coincide with your own.
You can certainly find such a person on oDesk; it's not a sure thing and you'll definitely get a lot of unqualified candidates to sift through, but qualified researchers do exist there if you dig a little bit. Make sure you're neither turned off nor seduced by the very low prices and keep your eye on finding the best ones.
(disclosure: I work there)
May 21st, 2013
It sounds like you're referring to lit review. Instead of mining for any academic person to do this, it's easier to find phD level people who work in that field and ask for a lit-review-like document or consultation.
I've done a lot of work with academics over the years. Sounds like you are looking for a good post-doctoral fellow to do some freelancing. I would start by contacting the dean of the appropriate school at the University of Maryland or any one of the great local universities in your area, and asking him or her to please refer you to one of their fellows.
There are a few things to look for in finding a person to. Obviously a
Masters of PhD in the field helps dissect out people in the field, but it's
not always greater for a de novo researcher that understands your business
Here are a few things to look for:
1) Are they conservative and detail oriented in their scientific claims?
As in do they understand the context of how a particular paper or series
of papers falls into the larger
2) Can they quickly and timely read and dissect a paper. In my experience,
an expert in biomedical fields can comprehensively understand the contents
(not the implications) of average paper in 10-15 minutes. Implications can
take years :) In contrast, an entry level researcher will probably need
several days to digest a paper.
3) Do they have access to closed peer-reviewed literature? This is a big
I would strongly advise against outsourcing thinking. Getting others to
think for you is really not the way to go. Once you develop your product
concept, features, ux, then you can farm out implementation, under close
supervision. Just my $0.02.