The ecology of team science: understanding contextual influences on transdisciplinary collaboration

Am J Prev Med. 2008 Aug;35(2 Suppl):S96-115. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2008.05.003.


Increased public and private investments in large-scale team science initiatives over the past two decades have underscored the need to better understand how contextual factors influence the effectiveness of transdisciplinary scientific collaboration. Toward that goal, the findings from four distinct areas of research on team performance and collaboration are reviewed: (1) social psychological and management research on the effectiveness of teams in organizational and institutional settings; (2) studies of cyber-infrastructures (i.e., computer-based infrastructures) designed to support transdisciplinary collaboration across remote research sites; (3) investigations of community-based coalitions for health promotion; and (4) studies focusing directly on the antecedents, processes, and outcomes of scientific collaboration within transdisciplinary research centers and training programs. The empirical literature within these four domains reveals several contextual circumstances that either facilitate or hinder team performance and collaboration. A typology of contextual influences on transdisciplinary collaboration is proposed as a basis for deriving practical guidelines for designing, managing, and evaluating successful team science initiatives.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Community Networks / organization & administration
  • Computer Communication Networks / organization & administration
  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Empirical Research
  • Group Processes*
  • Health Promotion / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Institutional Management Teams / organization & administration
  • Interdisciplinary Communication*
  • Models, Organizational*
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Research Personnel / organization & administration*
  • Science / organization & administration