Enhancing the Effectiveness of Team Science

A National Research Council Report


Definition of team: two or more individuals with different roles and responsibilities, who interact socially and interdependently within an organizational system to perform tasks and accomplish common goals.


  • Attitudes that predispose one to integrate knowledge from a varied set of disciplines. The beliefs that such efforts are necessary and can lead to effective outcomes.
  • Beliefs that complex problems should be approached from a broad, multilevel perspective.
  • Values that emphasize inclusion of multiple and diverse perspectives.
  • Awareness of assumptions of own discipline, engage colleagues from
    outside disciplines.
  • Knowledge of resources and  strategies to enhance teamwork as well as taskwork.
  • Capacity to adapt flexibly and effectively to situational and intra-team challenges.
  • Broad intellectual curiosity, recognition of personal strengths and weaknesses with regard to  interdisciplinary research.
  • Ability to recognize when one’s general approach, or a specific problem-solving approach needs to be changed.
  • Critical awareness about one’s own potential disciplinary biases in  collaborative situations.


I. One model of team science proposes a development stage in which the primary goal is to define the relevant scientific and societal problem, to create a shared sense of mission and goals…, developing critical awareness of the strengths and weaknesses (that each member brings to the team), and developing an environment of psychological safety.

  • An effective method for supporting these processes is to engage the group in creating a visual representation of the problem area, referred to as a “cognitive artifact,” and updating this representation as the work proceeds.

From this beginning, the group moves into the conceptualization phase, developing research questions, hypotheses, a conceptual framework, and a research design. Team processes that enhance effectiveness at this stage include developing a shared language, such as by using analogies and lay language in in place of disciplinary jargon.

The primary goal in the implementation phase is to carry out the planned project, with critical processes of team self-reflection…enhanced through continued efforts to promote shared language and mental models.

In the final stage—translation—the primary goal is to apply research findings along the research continuum to address real-world problems, developing shared understandings of team goals among old and new members.

II. Another model proposes to begin with a process of social integration, including the development of shard understandings of the project goal (i.e., shared mental models); communication practices facilitated by shared leadership; and collective understanding of all team members’ perspectives and expertise.

These social processes lead to emergent states such as trust and positive emotions. Feelings of identity with the interdisciplinary science team encourage each team member to thoughtfully consider team members knowledge and to either assimilate the new knowledge into his or her own thinking or accommodate it to develop new ways of thinking.