(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.
NIH administrator L. Michelle
Bennett, Ph.D., the event’s keynote speaker, has experience
promoting team-based research.
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
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
For more details on the symposium’s presenters and panelists, go
To read a study on interdisciplinary science that Bennett
co-authored that is titled “Collaboration & Team Science: A Field
Guide,” go online here: