Wasn't really sure whether this belonged in academic or career guidance. I just have a question that's been bugging me after reading so much about how hard it is to end up in an academic research position. If someone has an education and knowledge set rivaling the average research scientist, what is their ability to do useful scientific research without a paid position? Say you support yourself financially, but not as a scientist. Is it possible to do useful research on your own without the advantage of working at a university or national lab? This might sound crazy, but I was reading the other day about an amateur astronomer who collaborated with a research professor on a paper and was published, using public data from NASA. So it's clearly possible to some extent. Can people do cutting edge science like this if they have the time, or was this a fluke? I understand that the experiments and observational studies in modern physics require ridiculously expensive equipment, and no one's gonna let you play with it if you don't work there. But a lot of the data from these experiments is made public. And the data is what's important for drawing conclusions. However, research teams won't publish their results until they've reached their own conclusions, so any data you have access to has probably had most insights picked out of it already. I don't know much about the research process though, so I'm wondering what other people think.