What did we learn about Team Science at SciTS 2018?

As you will have learnt from our What does Team Science mean to the MCRC article, a big part of our role in the Operations team is to bring together our disease site, and cross-cutting theme, groups to town-hall meetings. The aim of these larger assemblies is to form ideas for team science projects.

Whilst the concept of teamwork and collaboration is familiar to most, the idea of Team Science specifically (and how best to facilitate this) was one that I wanted to find out more about.

As such, from 21st- 24th May 2018, I attended the Science of Team Science 2018 (SciTS) conference in Galveston, Texas. This was funded through The University of Manchester’s Investing in Success scheme. As the programme stated: ‘the science of team science, is an emerging field which encompasses both conceptual and methodological strategies aimed at understanding and enhancing the processes and outcomes of collaborative, team-based research.’

In short, it’s the science behind how teams work, and how we can make them work well together. As we start to enhance our existing teams, and build new ones here at the MCRC, we need to equip ourselves with the knowledge and skills to get the best out of them.

SciTS delivered a very wide range of workshops and talks which discussed, amongst other items: interdisciplinary translation, motivation and stresses of teams, conflict in teams, the benefits of diversity, leadership, space for teams, and training platforms.

For the MCRC and our projects, we need to ensure that our teams have a One Manchester approach with input from across disciplines. James Sallis (University of California, San Diego) highlighted that in order to build these kinds of team we require several elements: ensuring the leaders have multi-disciplinary expertise, recruiting non-traditional partners, broad distribution of calls for proposals, PI input and peer review from as many fields as possible. We’ve already built a lot of this into the process our new projects go through. Most have wide-reaching teams, with members from across different schools in the faculty; and all must go through an international external peer-review process, receiving comments from colleagues around the world.

 Outside of this, there was a lot of learning to be gained on Team Science through Training. Baylor College of Medicine spoke about Team Science for students and how this is built into their training as soon as they commence. They presented data comparing results of students who had used their online platform, against those that had not, and found that implementing this led to far more effective teams in the lab. We will now be considering how we can build team science into training opportunities for students at the MCRC.

 There was also a reminder throughout the conference that the scientific and clinical sectors are relatively far behind when it comes to a Team Science approach. What will resonate with many is that the ethos in this career sector is traditionally one of achieving independence. There is a big emphasis on proving yourself as an autonomous researcher/leader and establishing your own name. Although parts of this will involve teamwork with those around you; ultimately there is a goal of individual recognition. Whilst this is by no means a bad aim, it can mean that the environment is not always best primed for team collaboration.

 Another consideration we need to look at is are we speaking the same language to those on our team, and to those on other teams we want to collaborate with?

 The chances are we might not be, particularly with those on other ‘external’ teams, but there are ways of mitigating this. If this sounds like something that would be useful and interesting for you and your teams then we hope to see you at the upcoming the MCRC and HeRC hosted workshop: ‘Using Interdisciplinary Translation for More Effective Team Science’.

 We hope you are enjoying, and learning, from our series of Team Science articles. A collaborative working approach underpins our MCRC strategy and will push forward all the work that we do.


Next: Rob Bristow on Team Science…

Category: MCRC

MCRC Recruitment, Training and Development Partner

Read more posts by Rachel Chown