The integration of the veterinary, medical and environmental sciences necessary to predict, prevent or respond to emerging zoonotic diseases requires effective collaboration and exchange of knowledge across these disciplines. There has been no research into how to connect and integrate these professions in the pursuit of a common task. We conducted a literature search looking at the experiences and wisdom resulting from collaborations built in health partnerships, health research knowledge transfer and exchange, business knowledge management and systems design engineering to identify key attributes of successful interdisciplinary (ID) collaboration. This was followed by a workshop with 16 experts experienced in ID collaboration including physicians, veterinarians and biologists from private practice, academia and government agencies. The workshop participants shared their perspectives on the facilitators and barriers to ID collaboration. Our results found that the elements that can support or impede ID collaboration can be categorized as follows: the characteristics of the people, the degree to which the task is a shared goal, the policies, practices and resources of the workplace, how information technology is used and the evaluation of the results. Above all, personal relationships built on trust and respect are needed to best assemble the disciplinary strength of the professions. The challenge of meeting collaborators outside the boundaries of one's discipline or jurisdiction may be met by an independent third party, an ID knowledge broker. The broker would know where the knowledge could be found, would facilitate introductions and would help to build effective ID teams.
© 2012 Blackwell Verlag GmbH.