Recently, we discussed the rise of contingent jobs in academe. But the trend toward nonpermanent contract workers is also spreading to researchers working in the pharmaceutical industry, reports Linda Wang at Chemical & Engineering News. "With the pharmaceutical industry continuing to downsize, companies are increasingly turning to contingent workers to fill their business needs. … Experts say the trend toward short-term employees is only going to continue as pharma tries to make operations more nimble," she writes.

"Research and development in the pharma/biotech industry is a risky endeavor," says Daniel Gold, who heads Fairway Consulting Group, a recruiting firm specializing in the biotech, pharmaceutical, and medical device industries, as quoted in the article. " 'Most research and development efforts fail, and because of that, pharmaceutical companies want more flexibility'  in hiring."

"We always prefer to hire a full-time employee, but if there’s a high risk that the work won’t be there in a year, we don’t want to bring somebody on full-time and then have to do layoffs," adds Debbie Durso-Bumpus of Cubist Pharmaceuticals in Lexington, Massachusetts, as quoted in the article.

Marc Miller, of the recruiting firm Klein Hersh International, predicts an almost "50-50 split between permanent and contract hiring into 2014 and 2015," Wang writes.

The article examines the particular challenges facing scientists working on temporary contracts and offers advice for keeping their careers strong despite uncertainty and changing conditions. You can read it here.

Beryl Lieff Benderly writes from Washington, D.C.

10.1126/science.caredit.a1300272