BobTheEnforcer got me thinking...

Everyone always asks, 'how can I publish as an independent researcher?', but nobody asks how they can be an attached researcher! If this is a subject you really do love, why not go to school, and get a degree? School is there to teach you and fill in your skillsets in areas you are weak in. In my studies, I meet students of all ages. I myself am classified as an 'alternative student', I work 40 hours a week at a 'real' job, while going to classes and studying. It is not easy - most days are 7am to midnight nonstop working til my nails come off, but I get amazing access to equipment, foundries, material, etc...

There's a lot of things you don't do as an independent researcher that you experience at an institution, which allow you to tie up loose strings in a paper. One thing is you really learn to separate yourself with your work and allow yourself to see your own work objectively, because you will be slammed with hard (but 99% of the times true) criticism.