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Team Science Learning Module


The Team Science Learning Module was created in partnership with the integrated Translational Health Research Institute of Virginia (iTHRIV), University of Virginia’s Office of the Vice President for Research and the Environmental Research Institute. iTHRIV is funded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Science of the National Institutes of Health Awards UL1TR003015/ KL2TR003016.  Contents of this website do not necessarily reflect the views of the institution and/or the National Institutes of Health.

Special thanks to Belinda E. Hernandez, M.Ed., UVA School of Education and Human Development for researching and writing module content.   We are also thankful to the researchers, editors, and evaluators who donated their time, expertise, and knowledge to this project.  

Citation and Copyright

Please cite using the following format:
integrated Translational Health Research Institute of Virginia (iTHRIV). (n.d.). Team Science Learning Module.

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What is Team Science?

Team science has been defined as scientific collaboration that involves research conducted by small teams and larger groups in an interdependent fashion (National Research Council, 2015). It involves solving a complex and multifaceted problem by combining two or more scientific approaches (Shah, 2020). Individuals from various scientific disciplines work collaboratively toward the resolution of significant health and social problems (Calhoun, 2013). According to Calhoun (2013), the ultimate goal of team science is to conduct team-based research that will produce a profound understanding of vital scientific problems, while also efficiently generating scientific discoveries relevant to society.

Who Can Participate in Team Science?

Anyone who wants to solve a complex problem and collaborate with others from different fields of discipline can participate in team science! Collaborative groups engaging in or conducting team science research may include a broad range of individuals that offer their unique expertise and skill set. These groups may include but are not limited to, students, researchers, community members, and policymakers. The process of integrating expertise from multiple domains can cultivate fruitful discussions that lead to research endeavors with greater potential for advancing science (Calhoun, 2013).

How to Participate in Team Science?

As noted in Calhoun (2013), individuals can begin by pursuing opportunities outside of their training and connecting with others from different fields of study. Of note, collaborating with individuals from other fields of study may require additional effort to create a shared language and communicate efficiently, such as reading up on other fields and deciphering their professional jargon; attending seminars or lectures outside their department. Those who are in academia should begin by critically evaluating their research by examining how their research goals can profit from creating stronger networks to science or community applications. Additionally, institutions may promote team science work by inviting guest speakers who possess expertise that could be beneficial to others in the department. It can also be beneficial to contact individuals in other departments or in the community to arrange discourse in an attempt to further broaden the understanding of an essential problem and cultivate potential opportunities for collaboration (reference Calhoun (2013) for more information on how to participate in team science).



What is the Difference Between Team Science and Collaboration?

Team science and simple collaboration may seem similar, but are actually different. Collaboration is defined as “mutually beneficial relationships between two or more parties who work together towards common goals by sharing responsibility, authority, and accountability for achieving results” (Schuman, 2006, p.282). As previously mentioned, team science is the collaboration across two or more groups from different scientific backgrounds (i.e., engineering, psychology, nursing) to solve a complex societal problem. The distinction between collaboration and team science has been placed on a continuum, with minimal collaboration on the lower end of the spectrum and optimal collaboration (i.e., team science) on the higher end (Bennett & Gadlin, 2012).

  • On the lower end of the spectrum, a researcher's laboratory may have limited interaction with other labs but may collaborate with multiple individuals within their lab to achieve a goal (Bennett & Gadlin, 2012). 

  • In the intermediate level, two or more researchers from different labs may work on a project, but are not very integrated, and each individual might bring his or her particular expertise and abilities to a project. These groups may conduct research with similar samples, aggregate the results to present a scientific narrative, but may discontinue their collaboration when the study is completed (Bennett & Gadlin, 2012).

The higher end of the spectrum comprises a highly unified and interactive team. This is a team that is led by one or more scientists and consists of individuals with diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise. These collaborators have mutual objectives, allocate their resources properly, and create a shared plan delineating their activities and objectives. Typically, these teams have consistent physical or virtual meetings, strong communication, a high level of trust, openly share data and recognition, identify a shared vision and goal constructed from a scientific idea, and encourage intellectual conflict that is productive (Bennett & Gadlin, 2012).

What is the Difference Between Team Science and Multidisciplinary Research?

Team science has been identified by various names, including interdisciplinary science, multidisciplinary science, transdisciplinary science, and big science. The video below underscores the distinction between team science and other types of collaborative research. 

What is the Science of Team Science (SciTS)?

Transdisciplinary teams have the potential to encounter several challenges throughout their collaboration. If a team is not well equipped for transdisciplinary collaboration, the team can suffer from poor functioning and performance. Thus, a large emphasis has been placed on research that could enhance team performance, which has resulted in a nascent field called the Science of Team Science (SciTS). The SciTS aims to address "questions from funding agencies, administrators, and scientists regarding the value of team science and strategies for successfully leading, engaging in, facilitating, and supporting science teams" and "develop an evidence base including interacting and multilevel factors that influence the effectiveness of science teams and ranging from science policy to psychological factors. It aims to synthesize and build upon methods, concepts, and theories from a range of relevant disciplines and fields." (Hall et al., 2018, p. 533).

What is the difference between Team Science and Science of Team Science (SciTS)?

Considering the burgeoning field of SciTS, it is important to distinguish between initiatives of team science versus those of SciTS. The SciTS field primarily analyzes research and training initiatives implemented by public agencies and nonpublic organizations. Furthermore, it investigates the projects within each initiative which are led by scientists who work within and outside of their respective disciplines (Stokols et al., 2008). According to Stokols and colleagues (2008), team science initiatives aim to promote cross-disciplinary and collaborative methods to address a research question. On the contrary, the SciTS field is the scientific study of team science, such that it aims to understand and manage the characteristics that facilitate or hinder the effectiveness of team science initiatives. Whereas team science focuses on “the phenomena addressed by particular team science initiatives (e.g., cancer, heart disease, obesity, community violence, environmental degradation),” the SciTS centers around “understanding and enhancing the antecedent conditions, collaborative processes, and outcomes associated with team science initiatives more generally, including their scientific discoveries, educational outcomes, and translations of research findings into new clinical practices and public policies” (Stokols et al., 2008, p.578). In sum, team science refers to research initiatives by collaborating scientists from multiple fields, whereas the SciTS studies the effectiveness and characteristics of team science.

What Determines Whether a Team Science Project is Successful?

Team performance and the success of transdisciplinary collaboration can be influenced by intrinsic and extrinsic factors, including intrapersonal skills and interpersonal skills, as well as organizational, social/political, physical, and technological Structures (Stokols et al., 2008)


What is Team Science? 

How to Participate in Team Science?

Team Science for Students!


  • National Research Council. (2015). Enhancing the effectiveness of team science.

  • Shah, D. (2020). Fundamentals of Team Science [PPT].

  • Calhoun, C. D., (2013). Playing for “team science”: Tips for students. 

  • Schuman, S. (Ed.). (2006). Creating a culture of collaboration: The International Association of Facilitators handbook (Vol. 4). John Wiley & Sons.

  • Bennett, L. M., & Gadlin, H. (2012). Collaboration and team science: from theory to practice. Journal of Investigative Medicine, 60(5), 768-775.

  • Stokols, D., Hall, K. L., Taylor, B. K., & Moser, R. P. (2008). The science of team science: overview of the field and introduction to the supplement. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 35(2), S77-S89. 

  • Hall, K. L., Vogel, A. L., Huang, G. C., Serrano, K. J., Rice, E. L., Tsakraklides, S. P., & Fiore, S. M. (2018). The science of team science: A review of the empirical evidence and research gaps on collaboration in science. American Psychologist, 73(4), 532.

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