Harvard University's Some Ph.D's Choose to Work Off the Grid covers the growing trend towards independent, freelance scholars.
These are people who do academic research and publish papers and books, but do so without a formal affiliation with a university or college.
Key quote on why these people choose freelance scholarship:
They may have been jilted by the academic job market, or are uninterested in either being on the tenure track or in cobbling together full-time work as adjuncts ... the work life of an independent scholar—with its freedom from the performance requirements of the tenure track—can be attractive to those with young children and those who can't or don't want to relocate for a faculty job.
But the article also points out the downsides, which include loneliness, low income and a lack of respect by scholars who have jobs at universities.
There are enough freelance scholars that organizations are being formed to help them. The Ronin Institute for Independent Scholarship, for example, is "devoted to facilitating and promoting scholarly research outside the confines of traditional academic research institutions.”
We've posted in the past about how more academic teaching jobs are becoming contingent (or as they call it in academia, adjunct). It's clear it's not just teaching going contingent, but also research.