Team Science Publications
Introduction: When Douglas Engelbart of the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) began refinements on an input device to simplify access to computing systems in 1962, he was setting into motion a cascade of events that would ultimately alter the ways in which scientists worked together. Colloquially, Engelbart referred to his prototype pointing device as a “mouse,” a name he gave to the handheld unit when observing that the cord coming out of the back-end looked distinctively similar to a tail (the technical name for the patent was the X-Y Position Indicator for a Display System). Most computer users today recognize the mouse as a mainstay of graphical user computing: a way of pointing, clicking, and dragging “virtual” objects onto either a personal or shared workspace. What users do not recognize is that the invention came out of a radically new way of thinking about knowledge and science.
Transcending the well-established and familiar boundaries of disciplinary silos poses challenges for even the most interpersonally competent scientists. This paper explores the challenges inherent in leading transdisciplinary projects, detailing the critical roles that leaders play in shepherding transdisciplinary scientific endeavors. Three types of leadership tasks are considered: cognitive, structural, and processual. Distinctions are made between leading small, co-located projects and large, dispersed ones. Finally, social-network analysis is proposed as a useful tool for conducting research on leadership, and, in particular, on the role of brokers, on complex transdisciplinary teams.
Interdisciplinarity has become a widespread mantra for research, accompanied by a growing body of publications. Evaluation, however, remains one of the least-understood aspects. This review of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research evaluation categorizes lessons from the emergent international literature on the topic reviewed in 2007. It defines parallels between research performance and evaluation, presents seven generic principles for evaluation, and reflects in the conclusion on changing connotations of the underlying concepts of discipline, peer, and measurement. Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research performance and evaluation are both generative processes of harvesting, capitalizing, and leveraging multiple expertise. Individual standards must be calibrated, and tensions among different disciplinary, professional, and interdisciplinary approaches carefully managed in balancing acts that require negotiation and compromise. Readiness levels are strengthened by antecedent conditions that are flexible enough to allow multiple pathways of integration and collaboration. In both cases, as well, new epistemic communities must be constructed and new cultures of evidence produced. The multidisciplinary-interdisciplinary-transdisciplinary research environment spans a wide range of contexts. Yet seven generic principles provide a coherent framework for thinking about evaluation: (1) variability of goals; (2) variability of criteria and indicators; (3) leveraging of integration; (4) interaction of social and cognitive factors in collaboration; (5) management, leadership, and coaching; (6) iteration in a comprehensive and transparent system; and (7) effectiveness and impact.
Fueled by the rapid pace of discovery, humankind's ability to understand the ultimate causes of preventable common disease burdens and to identify solutions is now reaching a revolutionary tipping point. Achieving optimal health and well-being for all members of society lies as much in the understanding of the factors identified by the behavioral, social, and public health sciences as by the biological ones. Accumulating advances in mathematical modeling, informatics, imaging, sensor technology, and communication tools have stimulated several converging trends in science: an emerging understanding of epigenomic regulation; dramatic successes in achieving population health-behavior changes; and improved scientific rigor in behavioral, social, and economic sciences. Fostering stronger interdisciplinary partnerships to bring together the behavioral-social-ecologic models of multilevel "causes of the causes" and the molecular, cellular, and, ultimately, physiological bases of health and disease will facilitate breakthroughs to improve the public's health. The strategic vision of the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is rooted in a collaborative approach to addressing the complex and multidimensional issues that challenge the public's health. This paper describes OBSSR's four key programmatic directions (next-generation basic science, interdisciplinary research, systems science, and a problem-based focus for population impact) to illustrate how interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary perspectives can foster the vertical integration of research among biological, behavioral, social, and population levels of analysis over the lifespan and across generations. Interdisciplinary and multilevel approaches are critical both to the OBSSR's mission of integrating behavioral and social sciences more fully into the NIH scientific enterprise and to the overall NIH mission of utilizing science in the pursuit of fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to extend healthy life and reduce the burdens of illness and disability.
This paper provides valid tools that can be utilized to examine the underlying processes of team science--an important step toward advancing the science of team science.
The science of team science encompasses an amalgam of conceptual and methodologic strategies aimed at understanding and enhancing the outcomes of large-scale collaborative research and training programs. This field has emerged rapidly in recent years, largely in response to growing concerns about the cost effectiveness of public- and private-sector investments in team-based science and training initiatives. The distinctive boundaries and substantive concerns of this field, however, have remained difficult to discern. An important challenge for the field is to characterize the science of team science more clearly in terms of its major theoretical, methodologic, and translational concerns. The articles in this supplement address this challenge, especially in the context of designing, implementing, and evaluating cross-disciplinary research initiatives. This introductory article summarizes the major goals and organizing themes of the supplement, draws links between the constituent articles, and identifies new areas of study within the science of team science.
The training of transdisciplinary science is distinct in its intention to develop scientists who synthesize the theoretical and methodologic approaches of different disciplines. As a result, transdisciplinary scientists are better prepared to address the complexities of health problems. The most common form of transdisciplinary training is the multi-mentor apprenticeship model, with each mentor training from his or her own discipline. The transdisciplinary trainee is faced with many challenges, including learning the languages and cultures of different disciplines along with learning how to navigate within and between disciplines. The trainee also confronts unique career development risks. The climb up the academic ladder can be slower, rougher, and less linear than that of the trainee's single-disciplinary-trained peers. A number of factors can help the trainee in overcoming the challenges: being able to develop a core set of values and behaviors that are essential for transdisciplinary scientists; having the commitment and support of training institutions, training directors, and mentors; and having training structures and processes in place to prevent the training and trainee from naturally regressing back to familiar single-disciplinary approaches. There is relatively little known empirically about transdisciplinary training. Future efforts can focus on developing a better understanding of the unique characteristics of transdisciplinary training, identifying the effective elements that relate to training outcomes, defining the critical outcome metrics at different time points during and following training, and creating toolkits to help with training processes.
Numerous factors play a part in health disparities. Although health disparities are manifested at the level of the individual, other contexts should be considered when investigating the associations of disparities with clinical outcomes. These contexts include families, neighborhoods, social organizations, and healthcare facilities. This paper reports on health disparities research as a multilevel research domain from the perspective of a large national initiative. The Centers for Population Health and Health Disparities (CPHHD) program was established by the NIH to examine the highly dimensional, complex nature of disparities and their effects on health. Because of its inherently transdisciplinary nature, the CPHHD program provides a unique environment in which to perform multilevel health disparities research. During the course of the program, the CPHHD centers have experienced challenges specific to this type of research. The challenges were categorized along three axes: sources of subjects and data, data characteristics, and multilevel analysis and interpretation. The CPHHDs collectively offer a unique example of how these challenges are met; just as importantly, they reveal a broad range of issues that health disparities researchers should consider as they pursue transdisciplinary investigations in this domain, particularly in the context of a large team science initiative.
Teams of scientists representing diverse disciplines are often brought together for purposes of better understanding and, ultimately, resolving urgent public health and environmental problems. Likewise, the emerging field of the science of team science draws on diverse disciplinary perspectives to better understand and enhance the processes and outcomes of scientific collaboration. In this supplement to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, leading scholars in the nascent field of team science have come together with a common goal of advancing the field with new models, methods, and measures. This summary article highlights key themes reflected in the supplement and identifies several promising directions for future research organized around the following broad challenges: (1) operationalizing cross-disciplinary team science and training more clearly; (2) conceptualizing the multiple dimensions of readiness for team science; (3) ensuring the sustainability of transdisciplinary team science; (4) developing more effective models and strategies for training transdisciplinary scientists; (5) creating and validating improved models, methods, and measures for evaluating team science; and (6) fostering transdisciplinary cross-sector partnerships. A call to action is made to leaders from the research, funding, and practice sectors to embrace strategies of creativity and innovation in a collective effort to move the field forward, which may not only advance the science of team science but, ultimately, public health science and practice.