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UT Group Attends Vanderbilt Conference on Team Science

Team ScienceUniversity of Tennessee, Knoxville faculty and staff recently joined researchers at Vanderbilt University for a day-long workshop, titled “Supporting Team Science.”

The UT Office of Research and Engagement supported the participation of faculty members representing three of the Organized Research Units (ORU) funded by ORE in 2015. “The ORUs are supported as part of the ORE Strategic and Transformative Investments in Research (STIR) funding, with a focus on supporting multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary research.  This is part of continuum of support we are providing to facilitate collaborative work.” says Janet Nelson, associate vice chancellor for research development in the ORE. Three members of the ORE staff attended as well.

Workshop topics included The Need for Team Science and Team Science Funding, Evidence-Based Guidance for the Successful Praxis of Team Science, Integrating the Community in Team Science, and Grantsmanship for Team Science, and Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation: A Team Science Case.

Lyn Hardy, associate dean for research in the College of Nursing, said she came back to Knoxville with new ideas to use and explore. For example, she learned about a “TurboTax-type” online resource for team research that she thinks might have value here at UT. Called StarBRITE, this interactive web-based system provides one-stop shopping for research needs. Researchers can identify resources, find experts, obtain regulatory support, access templates, obtain database software and more.

In addition, Vanderbilt University Medical Center supports biomedical research with institutional cores and shared resources. Hardy notes that Vanderbilt goes beyond technical cores to offer behavioral and team-specific cores. For example, Vanderbilt’s Institute for Clinical and Translational Research provides centralized support through its Community Engagement Research Core and its “Studios,” which bring together research subject matter experts to provide guidance based on specific areas of research and needs identified by an investigator.

“Looking at Vanderbilt as an exemplar gave us ideas about how we can best facilitate team science here at UT,” Hardy says. “From my perspective as one who has worked in team science for many years, this workshop showed me what’s possible. We saw how one institution is operationalizing team science, and provided ideas as to how I can better explain team science to faculty members.”

Participants found Vanderbilt University’s team science initiatives to be encouraging. “Seeing team science being embraced by this institute that we value shows us we are headed in the right direction,” said Suzie Allard, associate dean for research in the College of Communication and Information and director of the Center for Information and Communication Studies ORU. “Vanderbilt’s experience is that the process of supporting team science is both planned and organic. You have to do both to succeed. I think that the Office of Research and Engagement is uniquely positioned to help us listen and discover the strengths, resources, and connections related to team science here at UT.”

Other team science resources that were discussed during the workshop include the following:

Holly Falk-Krzesinski, vice president for global academic and research relations for Elsevier, noted that the science of team science is becoming more crucial for universities, due to several factors that include societal concerns, cost-effectiveness, and accountability in research. “Team science takes more time, at least proximally,” she says. “But there is a distal payoff in terms of accelerating research.”

For example, she suggests that research teams can utilize the Collaboration Success Wizard to strengthen their team dynamics, as well as to provide “great fodder for that next center proposal.” She talked about other ideas, such as graduate student team science curriculum and internal systems that recognize and reward faculty work in science teams.

UT’s Office of Research and Engagement promotes collaborative research through a number of initiatives including Communities of Scholars, Organized Research Units and Centers and Institutes. A UT Team Science event is being planned for the spring. For more information, contact Sharon Pound at spound@utk.edu or Louise Nuttle at lnuttle@utk.edu.