Collaboration Readiness

The Experience and Confidence of Researchers and Research Support Staff in Conducting Cross-disciplinary Research

Dr. Yan Ding, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine; Dr. Justin Pulford, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine; Dr. Imelda Bates, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine

Background Previous experience, confidence and the span of disciplines represented within a project have been identified as contributing to collaborative readiness during the initial stages of cross-disciplinary research projects. This paper explores previous experience and confidence of researchers and research support staff in an African health multidisciplinary research programme (IMPALA), to identify actions for further improvement and to provide baseline information in tracking changes during the programme lifetime. 

Methods Between May-September 2018, a novel online survey based on required competencies from literature in conducting cross-disciplinary research was administered to respondents from the IMPALA programme. The survey carried personal information, previous experience, and confidence in conducting cross-disciplinary research. A four-phase model of cross-disciplinary research was the main analytical framework. It comprises development (establishing a shared understanding of scientific/societal problem space of interest); conceptualization (developing research questions and a research design); implementation (launching, conducting and refining the planned research); translation phases (applying research findings); and a cross-cutting component (contributing to the goals of the four phases). The researcher respondents were grouped according to academic ranks and primary academic fields, to compare the percentages of having previous research experience and their confidence in conducting cross-disciplinary research. Data from the research support staff were divided according to whether at least half of the respondents had previous experience of cross-disciplinary research and were “extremely confident” or “confident”.

Findings 43/56 researchers (grouped as professors/senior researchers/early-career researchers as well as in Humanities & Social Sciences/Medicine & Clinical Sciences/Others groups) and 8/10 research support staff completed the survey. The researchers had mainly a Medicine & Clinical Sciences background (64%), followed by Humanities & Social Sciences (26%), and 74% had a multidisciplinary background. At each phase, the professors and the Humanities & Social Sciences group had the highest percentage of previous cross-disciplinary research experience. Overall, researchers had less cross-disciplinary research experience at the translation phase. At the development and translation phases, there was a lower level of confidence in doing cross-disciplinary research. There were no differences in confidence between the Humanities & Social Sciences and Medicine/Clinical Sciences groups, whereas the early-career researchers had a lower level of confidence compared to professors and senior researchers except in the implementation phase. The research support staff potentially could provide additional support for cross-disciplinary research by extending collaboration networks, interacting with non-academic stakeholders, incorporating cross-disciplinary research outcomes into technical outputs, presenting research in non-technical language, disseminating cross-disciplinary findings to policymakers, and advocating for cross-disciplinary research.

Interpretation Overall, researchers had the least previous experience and confidence in the translation phase of cross-disciplinary research. The programme could focus on creating opportunities for cross-fertilization among IMPALA researchers, especially for early-career researchers, increasing researchers’ translational skills, and engaging research support staff for additional support in conducting cross-disciplinary research.

SciTS Presentation: The experience and confidence of researchers in conducting cross-disciplinary research


Building the Collaboration Readiness Framework for Ad-interim Evaluation of Transdisciplinary Collaborations

Dr. Eva Kalmar, TU Delft, SEC; Dr. Maarten van den Sanden, TU Delft; Ms. Ingrid van Marion, TU Delft

The challenges of our modern world are getting more and more multi-dimensional, integrating not only technological but social, environmental and politically sensitive issues. The complexity of these problems requires the involvement of multiple actors in the research and innovation processes, the engagement of scientists with non-scientists by bridging disciplinary and sector-based boundaries.

The collaborating partners share their human capital, risk and resources, join complementary skills and capacities in the course of joint work. These collaborations, often called as collaborative networks create new expectations, alter roles and shift communication practices for its members. The partners have to adjust to new social, organizational and management settings and adapt to the new collaboration-facilitating technologies. Organizations that lack the ability to share and collaborate have a huge potential to resist these adjustments and adaptation processes and limit the effectiveness of the collaboration as a whole. This could lead to the failure of the join work.

We claim that next to the technology readiness levels, collaboration readiness levels of research teams, organizations or companies can be measured and needs to be used within innovation processes. Much has been studied regarding the success factors of collaborations, or the collaboration readiness of distinct partners working together, but still, the evaluation of such collaborations are yet done at the last phase and are generally based on the number of produced research publications and patents. Our goal is to build a Collaboration Readiness framework that can be used to measure the collaborative status of collaborative networks even during their formation to support them in reaching their utmost potential.

Blockchain, the distributed ledger technology is a disruptive innovation, with potential uses in healthcare, food industry, energy, smart industry, logistics, and government. Blockchain entails an entirely new way of identification, transacting, trading and regulation. Blockchain is best seen as a technology that is co-created with multiple stakeholders. The heterogeneity of the actors involved in its development implies that these stakeholders are likely to have very different backgrounds and interests and as a result, they are also likely to have very different understandings of Blockchain regarding (for example) what it is and what it should do. This can both hamper collaboration among these stakeholders and reduce widespread support for Blockchain.

A pilot study was performed on the Dutch Blockchain Coalition in 2017 to map how different internal stakeholders collaborate, how they perceive the technology, how they reach out, and how these issues could determine the success of Blockchain innovations. The aim of the pilot study was dual. First, to check the theoretical framework of collaboration readiness generated by the authors based on theoretical input as the first step in the design-based research approach. The results of the pilot were used to give feedback on issues that should be changed by the coalition to become more effective. The report on our findings was used to implement several organizational changes. This presentation summarizes the collaboration readiness framework, the pilot research, and draws the silhouette of the further research.

SciTS Presentation: Building the Collaboration Readiness Framework for ad-interim Evaluation of Transdisciplinary Collaboration


Perceptions of Competence of Social Scientists and Natural Scientists

Ms. Caitlin Kirby, Michigan State University; Ms. Patricia Jaimes, Michigan State University; Dr. Amanda R. Lorenz-Reaves, Michigan State University; Dr. Julie C. Libarkin, Michigan State University

Interdisciplinary scientific research teams must often work across the boundaries of social science and natural science in developing solutions for complex scientific issues. However, perceptual barriers across these boundaries may prevent the formation of interdisciplinary teams or cause tension during interdisciplinary collaboration. Competence is one of the primary dimensions on which individuals judge others, and is a particularly important perception in the workplace. We explored the perceptions of competence of natural science and social science through the development of a survey. The purpose of this work was to develop and validate these competence measures. The survey was taken by a population of earth scientists (n = 449) from a range of career experiences. Resulting competence scales included three factors that we labeled as Perceived Respect (PR), Perceived Methodological Rigor (PM), and Perceived Intelligence (Pi). Scales were validated using confirmatory factor analysis, with all items on each scale having factor scores >0.32. Earth scientists' scale scores for the three competence measures PR, PM, and Pi were analyzed for both social science and natural science. A Mann-Whitney U test revealed that earth scientists perceived social science/scientists as significantly less competent than natural science/scientists. To test the impact of various demographics on earth scientists' competence perceptions of social and natural science, we conducted a multivariate multilevel analysis. Women perceived social scientists as more intelligent than men did. Having experience working with a social scientist improved scientists' competence perceptions of social science/scientists. Holding an earth science PhD lowered earth scientists’ competence perceptions of social science/scientists. Overall, our study indicated that competence in scientific disciplines is a multidimensional construct with components related to respect, methodological rigor, and intelligence. Our survey results from earth scientists indicated that perceptual barriers towards other scientific disciplines related to competence exist and may be related to exposure to other disciplines. Future research could expand upon these competence constructs, and gather larger samples of scientists' competence perceptions across disciplines.

SciTS Presentation: Perceptions of Competence of Social Scientists and Natural Scientists


Does a Shared Understanding Blind Groups to Surprise?

Ms. Michal Russo, U of M School of Environment & Sustainability

Change and uncertainty is ubiquitous in environmental resource management. To be effective, decision makers must not only master knowledge about current and past conditions, they must have the capacity to quickly and effectively adapt their understanding to changing conditions.

However, large and complex environmental decisions are not made by individuals, but rather diverse and often contentious groups. The capacity to adapt is influenced by the group’s cognition – i.e. their shared understanding of the problem and solution space. While past research has explored the role of group cognition in the context of stable and directed goals, little empirical work has focused on dynamic and ambiguous problem-sheds characteristic of wicked problems. This research asks - does the process of working towards an agreement make advisory groups better or worse at detecting and responding to future surprises? I propose that understanding the relationship between decision making processes, group cognition, and adaptive capacity is essential to enhancing the facilitation of long term resource management and ultimately the resilience of socio-ecological systems. As an initial step, I suggest that scholars and practitioners need a robust and flexible instrument for assessing changes in group cognition, and relating those measures to decision making outcome metrics. In my research, I propose a mixed methods approach that centers on an experimental role play simulation.


“I’m Ready, Are You Ready?”  How Do You Know If Your Team is Ready?

Dr. Jennifer Cross, Colorado State University; Dr. Bailey Fosdick, Colorado State University; Dr. Hannah Beth Love, Colorado State University; Dr. Meghan Suter, Colorado State University; Ms. Dinada Egan, Colorado State University

Is your team ready to be a team?  The Science of Team Science (SciTS) literature has established that teams go through phases of development (Hall et al., 2012), and it takes time for a team to develop and perform.  How do you know if a team is ready to apply for a grant, write publications, and conduct research?  Frequently, teams ‘fail to launch.’  They have a good idea that requires team science, but they fail to coalesce as a team.  ‘Failure to launch,’ can leave a ‘bad taste’ for future research and collaboration.  What if the team and their sponsors knew in early stages if they were “ready?”  What if there were tangible markers that teams could “check-off” before moving to the next stage of development. 

At Colorado State University, from 2015-2019 we conducted a mixed-methods study of three cohorts of interdisciplinary research teams to examine the processes of team development.  We conducted non-participant observation, social surveys, and social network analysis to understand team dynamics and development.  We used the data in an iterative and recursive process to improve and enhance the OVPR program through developing new trainings, establishing stage gates, modifying the funding structure, and supporting teams through multiple stages of development.

This session will explore the processes of team development, describe evidence-based interventions to accelerate team development, and provide metrics and criteria for understanding what interventions are best suited for different stages of development.

The session will:

  • Provide detailed case studies of teams at several stages of development,
  • Define specific metrics and data collection tools for assessing teams across the stages of development,
  • Identify interventions for advancing teams to higher levels of readiness, and
  • Outline recommended stage gates (and associated metrics) for university programs or other funders supporting large transdisciplinary teams based on team readiness.

Participants will leave the session with an enhanced understanding of how they can accelerate development of their own scientific teams, what interventions are most appropriate for various stages of development, and what tools can help administrators and funders assess team readiness.

References: Hall, K. L., Vogel, A. L., Stipelman, B. A., Stokols, D., Morgan, G., & Gehlert, S. (2012). A four-phase model of transdisciplinary team-based research: Goals, team processes, and strategies. Translational Behavioral Medicine, 2(4), 415–430.

SciTS Presentation: I'm Ready are You Ready?