As frequently exemplified by the institutional and disciplinary diversity of coauthors of BioScience papers, the biological sciences are increasingly a collaborative endeavor. It is no longer the case that only “large science” requires teams.
A common recognition of the participants in recent workshops and meetings organized by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) is that many of the significant questions and challenges before the biological-sciences research and education communities require teams of experts. Indeed, reports abound from professional societies, government agencies, and researchers calling attention to the fact that science is ever more an interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, interinstitutional, and international endeavor. In short, science is becoming a team sport.
Importantly, a growing cadre in the biology community also are calling attention to the fact that we are not adequately preparing scientists—current and future—to succeed in this new collaborative environment.
Unfortunately, the professional training for most scientists does not include a thorough grounding in the knowledge, skills, tools, and practices that are the foundation for building and operating within effective teams. Indeed, some aspects of the culture of science are antithetical to the culture of collaboration. Therefore, the success of teams often results from luck or the skilled leadership of one team member. Consequently, funders—as well as a research project itself—are placing quite a bet on the potential success of a research team.
There is a real and present need to better prepare scientists for success in our modern collaborative environment. AIBS—which was founded, in part, to bring together different communities within the biological sciences—is responding. I am pleased to announce that this March, we are launching a new professional development initiative: Enabling Interdisciplinary and Team Science (www.aibs.org/events/team_science_event.html). This program was designed to meet the needs of individuals and teams of scientists, educators, and research managers. The intensive, 2-day course has been informed by AIBS's decades of experience working with research teams, providing decision-support services to funders, and leading efforts that connect the biological sciences to other scholarly communities and decisionmakers. This program has been further guided by the expertise of scientists and experts in team building so that it meets the unique needs of researchers and educators.
The course is customizable, too. This means that we can engage with programs to bring a tailored program to an institution, which allows us to work with existing teams or emerging research collaborations onsite.
As scientists, we are taught to apply appropriate tools and accepted techniques to answer questions. To do this in the context of a collaborative team, we should know and apply the best practices that lead to strong and effective teams. Why not maximize the potential success of a research endeavor by ensuring that all team members are working together optimally?