The National Cancer Institute has been a leader in supporting transdisciplinary (TD) team science. From 2005-2010, the NCI supported Transdisciplinary Research on Energetic and Cancer I (TREC I), a center initiative fostering the TD integration of social, behavioral, and biological sciences to examine the relationships among obesity, nutrition, physical activity and cancer. In the final year of TREC I, we conducted qualitative in-depth-interviews with 31 participating investigators and trainees to learn more about their experiences with TD team science, including challenges, facilitating factors, strategies for success, and impacts. Five main challenges emerged: (1) limited published guidance for how to engage in TD team science, when TREC I was implemented; (2) conceptual and scientific challenges inherent to efforts to achieve TD integration; (3) discipline-based differences in values, terminology, methods, and work styles; (4) project management challenges involved in TD team science; and (5) traditional incentive and reward systems that do not recognize or reward TD team science. Four main facilitating factors and strategies for success emerged: (1) beneficial attitudes and beliefs about TD research and team science; (2) effective team processes; (3) brokering and bridge-building activities by individuals holding particular roles in a research center; and (4) funding initiative characteristics that support TD team science. Broad impacts of participating in TD team science in the context of TREC I included: (1) new positive attitudes about TD research and team science; (2) new boundary-crossing collaborations; (3) scientific advances related to research approaches, findings, and dissemination; (4) institutional culture change and resource creation in support of TD team science; and (5) career advancement. Funding agencies, academic institutions, and scholarly journals can help to foster TD team science through funding opportunities, institutional policies on extra-departmental and cross-school collaboration, promotion and tenure policies, and publishing opportunities for TD research.
Keywords: Cancer; Cross-disciplinary; Energetics; Team science; Transdisciplinary.