The Institute of Medicine (IOM) report clearly delineates the importance of collaborative interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary science to accelerate translational research designed to meaningfully impact human health and has underscored the critical role of training in the realization of this deliverable.
The conduct of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research is rarely compatible with the traditional more siloed structure of the traditional academic enterprise and must draw on expertise and experience from across health science disciplines, and alternative fields of inquiry outside these classic venues. There has been much focus in recent years on understanding the characteristics inherent to developing a culture of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research, and in fostering an investigative environment that values these critical features and attributes. Recent reviews of research on team effectiveness suggest that increased familiarity and participatory goal setting, encouraging feelings of inclusiveness among team members fosters social cohesiveness and leads to increased performance and productivity. Similarly, group-reward systems for highly interdependent teams, motivates members to perform well and results in greater effort. Because transdisciplinary team science requires a high level of cooperation to achieve knowledge integration across disciplinary boundaries, studies have suggested organizing research tasks so that they are structurally interdependent; encourage sustained collaboration through institutional, environmental, and technologic supports; and reward collaborative processes and achievements through an interdependent incentive system. Seventeen Team Science competencies, identified by Delphi survey methodology, can be categorized into 3 major components, have been recognized as essential skills needed to facilitate active enggement in team science:
- Research conduct
- Interactions with others
Leadership skills have also been highlighted as critical to the success and productivity of the Team Science enterprise.
The delineation of attributes which are instrumental to the successful participation in and conduct of team science has provided ConduITS, a clear road map to guide the development of novel educational forums and curricular efforts to foster a team science ecology that values and rewards collective cross disciplinary research enterprises. In this context, over the past 5 years, ConduITS, the ISMMS Institute for Translational Science (ISMMS CTSA) has catalyzed the re-engineering of research to fundamentally change the institution’s organizational landscape and culture to foster transdisciplinary research and team science education. Under the auspices of ConduITS, the Center for Patient Oriented Research Training, Education and Development (CePORTED) promotes educational forums, in partnership with specific centers and institutes, reflective of our CTSA HUB related scientific strengths, to foster transdisciplinary research and transform a discipline-focused culture to one more responsive to cross fertilization of scientific ideas.
Team-based curricular offerings include courses in secondary data analysis; translational research, Bi-annual writing seminars, methodology based journal clubs and works in progress seminar series; and the Q.E.D course, to teach each student a process for reliably producing creative solutions to technology-based challenges. Efforts have also included the Annual CePORTED Symposium, including workshops and panel discussions, showcasing bench to bedside to community integrated collaborative team science research on topics including diabetes/obesity, viruses and disease, urban environmental health, adaptive designs for new therapeutics, team science, translational genomics and discovery medicine. To promote team science and stakeholder engagement, we also host an annual tuition free Summer Workshop in Clinical/Translational Science with over 1200 registered participants, targeting pre & post-doctoral trainees, junior and senior faculty from basic and clinical science disciplines, clinicians, & stakeholders including community and industry representatives.
In 2012, ConduITS, ISMMS Institute for Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and Rennselear Polytechnic Institute (RPI) launched SINAInnovations, Leading a New Era of Discovery, highlighting compelling and informative models of collaborative research while serving to actively foster new and innovative multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary partnerships in translational science. This annual two-day program features internationally recognized leaders in support of major themes (Translational therapeutics, Science of Team Science, Engineering and Medicine) critical to success in innovation. These events have drawn over 750 attendees annually and an even larger off-site audience through live web-streaming.
Team science expansion has been reinforced by the “find a collaborator” toolkit launched by ConduITS and strategic institutional investments in intellectual capital and key cross interdisciplinary resources, including Genomics and Multiscale Biology; Computational Biology & Bioinformatics, the launch of a Masters in Biomedical Informatics in Fall, 2015; Therapeutic Discovery Science and Biomedical Technology Commercialization, reflective of the convergent strengths embedded in the newly formed (2013) MS Institute of Technology (an ISMMS and RPI partnership to facilitate innovation and entrepreneurship, with a $5 million funding commitment from NYCEDC), with the overarching goal of radically transforming biomedicine through the discovery, design, development and delivery (4Ds) of entrepreneurially-driven, technology-based solutions to address critical unmet medical needs.
Re-engineering of Research has also resulted in the development of more inclusive academic tracks for promotion and tenure, reflective of the range of expertise and insights needed to foster collaborative team science including a clinical educator and clinical excellence track as well as changes to the A & P process and criteria for consideration to value team science, including H factor, middle authorship, annotated publications whereby faculty indicate their respective contributions to the published work including conception & design of study; data acquisition; data analysis and interpretation; and drafting or revising critically important intellectual content. Innovation is also evaluated and valued. In this regard, candidates for promotion are encouraged to highlight innovations, describe their role in technology development entrepreneurial activities as well as the importance of the discoveries, whether achieved individually or as a team member. These changes have significantly broadened the APT Committee’s perspective and placed appropriate value on the importance of team accomplishments in advancing science and acknowledge that an important role as a member of a team can result in significant achievements that merit promotion.
In recognition of the critical role that team science plays in innovation and discovery, the Office of Academic Development and Enrichment (OADE) has implemented a number of venues to create a supportive team environment particularly focused on junior faculty. Such efforts include: 1) a bi-monthly luncheon, “Faculty First: Welcome to the Mount Sinai Health system!” which offers new junior faculty the opportunity to interact with their colleagues and members of ISMMS leadership within their first year of hire; 2) The Junior Principal Investigator Club, that assists with not only identifying a colleague with whom to collaborate, but also in building a community of young investigators; and 3) The inauguration of the first Dean’s Faculty Innovative-Collaborations Idea Prize. The prize is designed to highlight a collaborative, innovative research idea that can potentially be translated into a marketable product or intervention designed to significantly impact human health. The results of the collaborative project idea should go beyond what is possible through individual PI-driven research, and should enable launching of a multidisciplinary project that can create value through the development of therapeutics, devices, diagnostics, or digital health applications. This specific initiative is being launched under the auspices of a larger “Collaborations Foster Creativity (CFC) series, designed to bring together basic, clinical and translational researchers along with other research infrastructure groups that will be able to assist in the execution of future multi-department projects. These activities greatly contribute to an ecology that values team science and embraces team science education, and serves as strong foundation upon which to direct our proposed initiatives.