George Mason University has committed itself to multidisciplinary research and the School of Business faculty is on board.
Richard Klimoski, director of faculty research and professor and area chair of management at the School of Business, together with Steve Zaccaro, professor of psychology, and Aurali Dade, associate vice president of research development, integrity, and assurance at Mason, recently received a $50,000 grant issued from funds provided by the U.S. Government’s Health & Human Services (HHS) Office of Research and Integrity to research multidisciplinary science initiatives.
According to Klimoski, multidisciplinary research is the future of research. “By bringing people from different specialties together around a research question or a problem in society – it’s where good things can happen,” says Klimoski.
Klimoski, Zaccaro, and Dade are pursuing an emerging perspective when it comes to multidisciplinary research. Their studies will focus on “multidisciplinary teams of teams” taking research on science teams to a whole new level.
Rather than focus on the multidisciplinary team, which generally consists of a group of people from different disciplines, multidisciplinary teams of teams would involve a team from one discipline working together with teams from other disciplines in the pursuit of collaborative research.
“Imagine a team of engineers working with a team from public policy. Both might be multidisciplinary, but now they’re both working together. This will be a new way of thinking within leadership and management than what is currently being done,” says Klimoski.
Pursuing scientific investigations while working within what Klimoski and colleagues call multi-team systems comes with a new set of challenges. “It’s difficult to manage people of different disciplines often in the same building. Now think also of the challenges of working across academic units, across universities, with commercial partners or even (and often) working virtually. Many teams involved in big science initiatives are in different locations or in different countries. Our theory/model of the challenges assumes all of this; senior scientists leading teams of teams, across disciplines, across time zones, across countries, maybe across cultures.”
The grant, which was awarded in August, will run for the year allowing them to investigate how these science collaborations come about, what agreements are put in place at the outset and, most importantly, how scientists as leaders address potential challenges and pitfalls in order to accomplish project goals. As part of this grant Klimoski and his colleagues will conduct a workshop, bringing together scientists who have led multidisciplinary teams before, to establish a set of industry best practices.
A special focus of their grant will be on learning more about how scientists as leaders might go about ensuring the integrity of the research that is to take place in the context of such complex arrangements. As examples, threats to integrity might be associated with issues of proper data management, accurate budget record keeping, appropriate credit for discovery, or even to claims to intellectual property ownership rights.
“When you’re working with people from different backgrounds, there is room for disagreement, especially when it comes to different moral, ethical or legal issues,” says Klimoski. “We hope our research grant and its findings will provide new knowledge regarding how those responsible for achieving research goals come to anticipate, detect or to otherwise effectively deal with such threats should they arise.”