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Team Science Failure: the problem of interdisciplinarity in academia

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Schultz J. Team Science Failure: the problem of interdisciplinarity in academia. Oral presentation at 2017 SciTS Conference. Clearwater Beach, FL. Jun 13, 2017. Centers and Institutes to Promote Team Science- What Leads to Success? Online at:

Most research-intensive universities claim to appreciate the value of interdisciplinarity and scientific collaboration. They also appreciate the fondness funding agencies have for these concepts, and many are following up by developing interdisciplinary centers or programs of one sort or another. In a few cases such centers or programs have been populated primarily with new hires focused on common themes and teamwork. But much of the time efforts to encourage team science among university researchers proceeds with little regard for whether or not the available researchers actually have reason to work together. This creates a situation in which team-building has to happen post hoc, involving researchers who weren’t thinking about it at the start. I will use an example of such an ‘undesigned’ center to identify the widespread institutional barriers to successful development of interdisciplinary collaborative programs and centers. These range from contrary reward systems to a lack of a management structure for follow-through, as well as poor communication and individual vision and attitudes. Successful interdisciplinary, collaborative research centers and programs do exist, so there must be ways to cope with institutional barriers. These include establishing a priori goals and themes, devising a personnel plan to determine and modify membership, working to influence reward structures, establishing influence in the institution’s management, selecting a particular kind of leader, and identifying one or more individual “champions” who see that all the pieces come together appropriately. Negotiating with faculty researchers to get them willing to commit to team building can be one of the biggest hurdles, and there are ways to accomplish this. I will provide an outline of optimal approaches to overcoming institutional and individual barriers to interdisciplinary collaboration on university campuses.



Type of Publication:

Oral presentation


scits 2017 conference, presentation, team science, failures, problem

Addresses these goal(s):

  • Conduct research on/evaluate team science

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Resource created by Jane Hwang on 10/3/2017 11:50:12 AM.

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