Is the solitary scientist an outdated idea?

"Universities need to better support and recognize team science and funding agencies need to support research to improve the effectiveness of team science," says Steve Kozlowski. (Credit: iStockphoto)

A new report concludes teams increasingly dominate scientific research—a promising approach that’s also full of challenges.

Steve Kozlowski, professor of psychology at Michigan State University, says the book-length report from the National Research Council is likely to have major public policy and research funding implications because academic and scientific research communities are still largely structured around an outdated concept of the independent solo investigator.

Team science can be challenging, especially when teams or groups are geographically dispersed, include diverse disciplines, or experience changing membership. Yet the evidence indicates that multidisciplinary science teams enhance innovation and impact.

Kozlowski has served on multidisciplinary research teams that have received federal funding to tackle issues dealing generally with teamwork, including a project to help NASA build a better team on Mars.

Kozlowski says resolving the challenges that impede science team effectiveness requires attention to assembling the right people, training and development, and team leadership.

“Universities need to better support and recognize team science and funding agencies need to support research to improve the effectiveness of team science,” says Kozlowski, who served voluntarily for two years on the committee that developed the NRC report.

“Social scientists like me who study teams and team-science practitioners, and scientists working in teams need to collaborate on research efforts to produce knowledge that can be applied to enhance the effectiveness of team science.”

Source: Michigan State University