Communication Home

NIH expert offers lessons on successful team-based science

NIH administrator L. Michelle Bennett, Ph.D., the event’s keynote speaker, has experience promoting team-based research.

NIH administrator L. Michelle Bennett, Ph.D., the event’s keynote speaker, has experience promoting team-based research.

(ATHENS, Ohio — April 22, 2015) Research teams are most effective when they spur the “productive collisions” of scientific ideas while containing individual conflicts in the collaborative process, according to a federal expert on interdisciplinary research.

L. Michelle Bennett, Ph.D., chief science officer for the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, a division of the National Institutes of Health, was the keynote speaker Friday, April 17, at an event titled “Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Research Symposium: Goals, Roles and Solutions.”

Hosted by Ohio University’s College of Health Sciences and Professions and Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, the all-day symposium in Grover Center in Athens featured invited speakers and panel discussions aimed at promoting team-based science between the two colleges, as well as among other Ohio University academic units and external partners.

“The science is at the center – that’s what brings us together, that’s what drives us,” said Bennett, who has experience promoting collaboration and team-based approaches by bringing researchers with diverse backgrounds together to solve complex problems that may otherwise not be tackled as effectively by independent inquiry. “All the things that can take you away from the science are what need to be tended to.”

She went on to describe elements of the most successful collaborations that she has studied:

Leadership: Successful teams allow space for leaders to emerge. The most effective leaders are self-aware and aware of others’ contributions, capable of mentoring, able to manage up and across, and willing to allow all teammates the right to speak up and challenge ideas.

Shared vision: Every team member should be able to deliver the “elevator speech,” succinctly describing the project’s goal, as well as their own role in contributing to it.

Trust: Effective collaborators develop trust in each other’s skills, performance, decision-making and goal-sharing.

Setting of expectations: What Bennett described as a “prenuptial agreement” among members of the team can provide a strong foundation for discussion and trust, addressing the basic question: What does it mean to be a part of this team?

Diversity: A diversity of voices and cultures aids problem-solving. As an example, Bennett cited a study that illustrated mixed-gender research teams generating more successful publishing outcomes than same-gender ones.

The research symposium was aimed at building on the collaborative momentum that the Heritage College and CHSP have established in research and education, and the deans of both colleges hope to make it an annual event.

“An interdisciplinary focus is important to the way we do business,” said CHSP Dean Randy Leite, Ph.D., during opening remarks at the symposium. “It’s important to the way we educate students.”

Kenneth H. Johnson, D.O., executive dean of the Heritage College, pointed out that in today’s competitive environment for research funding, “we’re stronger when we work together. Interdisciplinary partnerships will give us some leverage in pursuing these scarce research dollars.”

For more details on the symposium’s presenters and panelists, go online to:

To read a study on interdisciplinary science that Bennett co-authored that is titled “Collaboration & Team Science: A Field Guide,” go online here:

  Office of Communication
Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine
210 Irvine Hall, Athens, Ohio 45701
Tel: 740-593-2346 FAX: 740-593-0343
Copyright Ohio University (Home)
Last updated: 01/28/2016