Working at a marginal ‘career’: the case of UK social science contract researchers



Contract researchers constitute a significant occupational group within the UK higher education system, and the products of their labour are crucial to the research profile of the institutions in which they work and to the sector as a whole. Given the ‘marginality’ of the contract researcher role, with its attendant insecurities and inferior employment conditions in comparison with ‘permanent’ faculty, it is perhaps not surprising that relatively few individuals manage to sustain any continuity of employment resembling a career path. The fact that some researchers do succeed in achieving this is therefore worthy of investigation. This paper examines and charts some of the ways in which contract researchers manage their everyday work routines and construct a presentation of self in order to maximise opportunities for ‘staying in the game’.