The science behind
“It turns out there’s a lot of similarity between the collaborative structures needed to put on a Broadway show and to do team science,” Bonnie Spring,
that drive team science, you have to make up for that lack of
bumping into each other.”
Strategies for overcoming that hurdle include using
PhD, told participants at APA’s 2011 Education Leadership
Basecamp and similar project management tools, exchanging
students across labs and holding in-person meetings, said
The average number of people involved in creating a
Spring. Regular interactions focused on the science itself also
Broadway show increased from two around 1880 to eight
facilitate team-based research, she added.
around 1930 and has stayed steady since then, she explained,
Teams also need to develop a common language and
citing a 2005 study in Science. Eight
constructs, something that’s harder
foreshadow what’s to come in research,
Spring said, the emerging science of
team science has already produced
seems to be “something of a ceiling”
when it comes to teams, said Spring,
adding that the number of authors
than it sounds, Spring warned. Other
disciplines may have methodologies
and assumptions very different from
of scientific publications has jumped
psychology’s, she said.
from one to three or four over the last
Institutional cultural norms
four decades. The Broadway literature
that support interdisciplinary
also suggests there’s a “sweet spot”
teams are also key. In addition to
between having too many old-timers
institutional leadership, tenure and
or newcomers on teams, she said.
promotion committees need to
While Broadway’s experience may
understand the differences between
interdisciplinary and solo work. In
psychology journals, the first author
is traditionally the student and the
second the mentor, Spring pointed
out, while in medical journals, it’s
the first and last authors who matter.
“Those are small things that make a
big difference,” she said.
closer together, if only virtually.
Publications jointly produced
by collaborations of two or more
“It turns out there’s a lot of similarity between
the collaborative structures needed to put on a
Broadway show and to do team science,” said
Dr. Bonnie Spring.
To capture all these lessons,
Spring developed a series of
online training modules aimed at
different institutions tend to have
junior investigators seeking their
more impact than those produced
by single schools or solo authors, said Spring. But a review of
National Science Foundation-funded collaborations found
that the more universities involved, the fewer the publications,
patents and grant awards that result.
That’s because a collaboration’s effectiveness declines when
team members are more than 30 meters apart, Spring explained.
“There are no water cooler conversations,” she said. “If
you want them to have the conversations and collaboration
first grants, senior investigators
developing collaborative projects and research development
officers. Funded in part by the National Institutes of Health,
the free interactive modules include an overview of the science
of team science plus modules focused on the team research
process in behavioral science, basic medical science and
clinical medical science. The modules are available at www.