Resources to help team scholarship achieve success

By Gary M. Olson, Judith S. Olson, Dan Stokols and Maritza Salazar Campo

1. Gary M. Olson (biography)
2. Judith S. Olson (biography)
3. Dan Stokols (biography)
4. Maritza Salazar Campo (biography)

In this blog post we review the benefits and difficulties of working in teams before introducing a new web site whose goal is to help those carrying out collaborative interdisciplinary projects to solve problems and be more effective.

Benefits of working in teams

Working in teams has at least five major benefits:

  • enables access to broader expertise
  • enlarges access to more resources
  • creates synergies
  • builds on past success
  • expands funding opportunities.

Difficulties in working in teams

But team work also comes with challenges, especially when there are:

  • conflicting goals
  • lack of common ground
  • different work styles
  • lack of effective leadership
  • ambiguous criteria for assigning credit for work
  • contested control of resources
  • hidden distribution of funds
  • miscommunication
  • loss of trust
  • difficulties in decision making
  • unclear process for updating goals
  • lack of tools to support the collaboration
  • daunting size or scale of the team
  • institutional barriers, e.g., promotion & tenure policies, credit issues
  • geographic distribution – distance matters.

New team scholarship website

To deal with these challenges, the website describes more than 40 resources that can be brought to bear, indexed by the current stage of the work and the kind of problem encountered. For this, we draw upon others’ earlier work as well as our own.

The web site groups useful resources under the following headings:

  • Phase 1: The beginnings
    • Becoming a collaborator
    • Becoming the leader of a team scholarship collaboration
    • Putting a team together
    • Things to help in the writing of the proposal.
  • Phase 2: Getting started with the team
    • Know your team
    • Team planning
    • Team building
    • Communicating with the team
    • Collaboration tools
    • Space considerations.
  • Phase 3: Getting the work done
    • Rewarding collaborative work
    • Update and revise!
    • Embrace diversity
    • Managing conflict
    • Be positive!


The web site also offers links to several additional resources for team scholarship and training, and includes a bibliography of relevant work.

The web site is provided by the Team Scholarship Acceleration Lab at the University of California, Irvine, USA which is described in our earlier blog post on Strengthening the ecosystem for effective team science.

It aims to complement existing resources such as the Collaboration and Team Science Field Guide, described by Bennett and Marchand in their blog post Collaboration and team science: Top ten take aways, and the National Cancer Institute Team Science Toolkit.

Are there any other resources that you think should be included on the web site? Are there other benefits and challenges of collaboration that should be listed?

To find out more:
The web site can be found at:

We thank the Office of Research and the Office of Academic Affairs at the University of California, Irvine, USA for their support of this work.

Biography: Gary M. Olson PhD is Professor Emeritus and formerly Donald Bren Professor of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Irvine, USA. The focus of his work has been on how to support small groups of people working on difficult intellectual tasks, particularly when the members of the group are geographically distributed. He co-edited (with Ann Zimmerman and Nathan Bos) Scientific Collaboration on the Internet.

Biography: Judith S. Olson PhD is the Donald Bren Professor of Information and Computer Sciences Emerita in the Department of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine, USA. For over 20 years, she has researched teams whose members are not collocated. She co-authored (with Gary Olson) Working Together Apart: Collaboration over the Internet. She is a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Biography: Dan Stokols PhD is Chancellor’s Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Irvine, USA and served as founding Dean of the university’s School of Social Ecology. His research spans the fields of social ecology, environmental and ecological psychology, public health, and transdisciplinary team science. He is author of Social Ecology in the Digital Age and co-author of Enhancing the Effectiveness of Team Science.

Biography: Maritza Salazar Campo PhD is an Assistant Professor at the Paul Merage School of Business at the University of California, Irvine, USA. Her research focuses on learning and innovation in teams and organizations. She serves as the program director of Team Science for the UCI ICTS. She also served as the founding President of the International Network for the Science of Team Science.

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