What lessons for improving interdisciplinary collaboration emerged from the 2019 Science of Team Science conference?

By Julie Thompson Klein and Ben Miller

1. Julie Thompson Klein’s biography
2. Ben Miller (biography)

Six lessons emerged from the seven plenary panels at the May 2019 Science of Team Science conference hosted by Michigan State University in the US.

1. Understanding the nature of team science is crucial to monitoring team behavior, including managing conflict, diverse voices, and strong leadership.

The Science of Groups and Teams plenary panel affirmed one approach alone is not sufficient. It featured perspectives from psychology, management, and organizational behavior in two regional research institutions, the University of Michigan and Michigan State University.

2. Networking and collaboration increase access to pertinent expertise and skills, equipment, and other resources including funding, relevant techniques, education and training, visibility and recognition.

The panel on Agency Approaches to Team Science provided perspectives from the US-based National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health. The National Science Foundation in particular is promoting the concept of a network of networks as a “force multiplier” in advancing goals and contributions.

3. Mentoring and informed use of literatures are crucial for fostering improved practices among both the “next generation” and current researchers.

The panel on Changing Scale and Scope of Collaboration addressed relevant developments in the accumulating body of knowledge and models about the nature of team science, including size, complexity, and geographical distribution.

4. Partnering with communities from the beginning is crucial for creating agreement on goals, outcomes, and rewards, in the process building trust while identifying “touch points tailoring messages sensitive to cultural differences.”

The panel on Indigenous Approaches to Team Science featured an interactive dialogue among representatives of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Mohawk Council of Akwesasne in Canada and Little River Band of Ottawa Indians in Illinois. Their conversation affirmed the importance of contextualizing collaboration in cultural traditions and forms of knowledge.

5. Matrix structures such as centers and institutes need a comprehensive support system that includes resources and services, education, proposal management and grant editing, and financial management.

Panels representing the Clinical and Health Research at the University of Michigan and community-engaged research in the Division of Public Health at Michigan State University’s Flint, Michigan campus called attention to the power of cross-campus leveraging, anchored in awareness of best practices in health-related fields.

6. Structured decision-making encourages value-focused thinking for finding solutions and maximizing objectives, while decomposing a problem into manageable chunks and fostering transparency in decision-making.

The panel on Team Science in Agriculture and Natural Resources reflected pertinent values in the land-grant history of Michigan State University including work in ecology and conservation, animal science, and freshwater and food resource ecosystems, and natural resources.

To find out more:
The sponsoring organization for Science of Team Science conferences – the International Network for the Science of Team Science (INSciTS) – brings together academic researchers and educators as well as policymakers and representatives of public and private funding agencies.

Biography: Julie Thompson Klein PhD is Professor of Humanities Emerita at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, USA and International Research Affiliate in the Transdisciplinarity Lab at the ETH-Zurich in Switzerland. She has published widely on crossdisciplinary and cross-sector research and education. She is also on the governing board of the International Network for the Science of Team Science.

Biography: Ben Miller is a Communications Strategist with the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA, and the current Chair of Marketing and Communications for the International Network for the Science of Team Science. His interests include science communication, design and collaboration in resource-constrained communities, and the interface between the humanities and the sciences.

3 thoughts on “What lessons for improving interdisciplinary collaboration emerged from the 2019 Science of Team Science conference?”

  1. Thanking the MSU conference host, Michael O’Rourke, for his hosting and extending conception of collaboration to include Native American and First Nations cultures as models. Julie

  2. Great summary of the main the themes and lessons from the 2019 INSciTS conference! Looking forward to 2020 Duke and 2021 Virginia Tech.

    • Huge thanks for the leadership you and Anne are providing for VT (Virginia Tech) 2021. Any suggestions people reading this blog have for moving the field of team science forward are welcome.


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