The Science of Team Science
The complexity of scientific problems, coupled with a growing need for specialized expertise, requires the formation of teams of experts who collaborate across disciplinary boundaries to generate scientific breakthroughs. The variety of knowledge available in convergence science teams provides the breadth of expertise to tackle complex problems that would be intractable by a single discipline. This presentation demonstrates the use of formal interventions to support early-stage discovery collaborations focused on curing devastating diseases. To advance their objectives, these collaborations must overcome profound differences in members’ specialized knowledge while simultaneously having little familiarity and limited prior histories of collaboration with one another to build from. We conducted a field quasi-experiment using 26 biomedical research collaborations across the US in their incipient stage, as they began work on treatments or cures for human diseases. We provided a “scaffolding intervention,” which we define as an interaction-focused intervention involving interim problem solving and provisional planning and tested its efficacy. Results show that using a scaffolding intervention allowed collaborations to fast-track convergence such that members’ disparate and diverse expertise was more effectively integrated, which led to increased productivity. The effect of the scaffolding intervention was mediated by the extent to which collaborators were able to align and coordinate with one another to complete project tasks.