NRC Report Offers Guidance on Team Science

Given the increasing number of scientists engaged in collaborative research, referred to as “team science,” the National Research Council (NRC) appointed the Committee on the Science of Team Science, chaired by Nancy J. Cooke, Arizona State University, to conduct and release a consensus study to provide guidance for these science teams or groups. The study was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Elsevier, and the final report, entitled Enhancing the Effectiveness of Team Science, was released on April 24.

While team science enables many otherwise impossible scientific breakthroughs, it presents notable challenges. Therefore, the report suggests adequate consideration of the research question, subject matter, and goals is necessary when deciding whether to adopt a team science approach and when determining the size, duration, and structure of the project.

Key features of team science—high diversity of membership, deep knowledge integration (the sharing and application of knowledge among members with various disciplines), large size, goal misalignment with other teams, permeable boundaries (changing goals and team membership), geographic dispersion, and high task interdependence—create challenges for communication, management, and coordination. To address these challenges, the report offers recommendations to leaders of science teams and groups, leaders of geographically dispersed science teams and larger groups, universities and other scientific organizations, public and private funders, researchers, as well as the scientific community, on how to promote team effectiveness regarding team composition, professional development, and leadership. Collaborations are encouraged. For example, team leaders, individual researchers, and universities are recommended to partner with each other to promote effective team training and leadership. The report recommends public and private funders work with the scientific community in efforts to provide incentives for team science and informational resources.

Other recommendations include the application of methods and tools to analyze the tasks for team leaders, and dividing the tasks according to locations for leaders of geographically dispersed science teams and large groups.

The report recommends further study on advancing the effectiveness of team science and helping address some of the remaining concerns.

COSSA intern Jianyi Nie contributed to this post.

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Posted in Issue 9 (May 19), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

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