The public health, social, technological, and environmental problems that impact our world are complex, but increasingly we are able to address them through scientific pursuit.1 The sophistication of these challenges necessitates cross-disciplinary engagement and collaboration, and the longer-term interaction of groups of investigators—what is termed team science.2–9 Such team-based research collaborations are also an essential feature of a robust translational research enterprise.10,11
The emerging field of the Science of Team Science (SciTS) encompasses both conceptual and methodological strategies aimed at understanding and enhancing the processes and outcomes of collaborative, team-based research.12,13,28 SciTS is concerned with understanding and managing circumstances that facilitate or hinder the effectiveness of collaborative cross-disciplinary science,14–19,28 and the evaluation of collaborative science outcomes.20–27 Its principal units of analysis are the research, training, and community-based translational initiatives implemented by both public and private sector organizations. SciTS focuses on understanding and enhancing the antecedent conditions, collaborative processes, and outcomes associated with initiatives rooted in team science, including scientific discoveries, educational outcomes, and translations of research findings into new practices, patents, products, technical advances, and policies.18,21
In an effort to enhance the understanding of how best to engage in team science to promote collaborative translational research and meet society’s needs, the First Annual International SciTS Conference was convened on April 22–24, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The event was produced by Research Team Support (RTS) of the Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences (NUCATS) Institute, in partnership with the NIH National Cancer Institute, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences and the Lambert Family Communication Conference of the School of Communication at Northwestern University. A Program Conference Committee of twelve renowned investigators in SciTS served as advisors.
The 3-day conference marked the first international, multi-agency forum dedicated to the emerging empirical field of SciTS, bringing together thought leaders from a broad range of disciplines, including: translational research, evaluation, communications, social and behavioral sciences, complex systems, technology, and management. The goals of the conference were to serve as a point of convergence for team science practitioners and investigators studying science teams, to engage funding agency program staff to provide guidance on developing and managing team science initiatives, and to afford data providers and analytics developers insight into team tracking and analysis needs. Because of the diverse participation, the conference served as an important conduit for translating empirical findings about team science into evidence-based effective practices for scientific teams and funders of team science—a bridge between the praxis of team science and the science of team science.28
More than 200 team science leaders/practitioners, research development officers, team science researchers, tool developers, and funding agency program officers attended this event, which included a keynote address, six panel discussions, and a research poster session. In addition, the agenda included a workshop on social network analysis (SNA) of teams. Each panel session was followed by a lively question and answer session, and the first 2 days of the conference concluded with an open discussion of the topics and ideas presented by the 24 panelists.