Research of biological, chemical or physical sciences in all their guises is increasingly the domain of large-scale, multi-centre, cross-disciplinary collaboration. Almost gone is the era when individual investigators secured funding to undertake narrowly defined projects, replaced by a ‘team science’ philosophy in which both practical and theoretical research, basic or applied, is performed by consortia of scientists with a range of skill sets who are brought together to address so-called grand challenges. As team members are typically in geographically distinct locations, often in different countries or continents, this provides logistical obstacles to project coordination, management and implementation. Knowing how a team-based approach can function optimally, as well as how universities and research institutions may best provide infrastructure and administrative support is critical to success in achieving scientific goals and translational outcomes.
It is in this context that Enhancing the Effectiveness of Team Science distils the collective thoughts of the research committees of the US National Academy of Sciences to proffer guidance on improving team effectiveness, facilitating virtual collaboration, enabling institutional backing and procuring funding. Individual sections focus on team composition, leadership and professional development of team members. How organisational research policies may help and not hinder collaborative research is also examined. This book offers robust recommendations to science research agencies and public policymakers, as well as valuable advice for university research managers, team science leaders and career researchers. It also debunks the clichéd myth that academics should be left alone in their ivory towers without any obligation to public accountability. We may prefer interacting with lab rats to engaging with the general public but society is a team effort and, for scientists, that starts with team bonding through research and research-led teaching.
A pdf version is free to download from the website of the publisher, The National Academies Press, while a hard copy book, excellent for libraries, is available for purchase.
Review by Andrew Taylor-Robinson