9 FEBRUARY 2018 • VOL 359 ISSUE 6376 645 SCIENCE sciencemag.org
Science has long been reputed to be the fortress of the lone thinker, but scientists are increasingly challenged to be more collaborative and interdis- ciplinary in their research. Experts in science policy, Barry Bozeman and
Jan Youtie have long studied various aspects of scientific collaboration. After years
of focusing on primary research, their new
book, The Strength in Numbers, aims to
translate their findings for those who are
actually doing scientific research. Reading
less like an academic article and more like
a “how to” guide, it introduces data and anecdotes about the challenges experienced
by individuals working in science teams.
Painting in broad brushstrokes, the book
begins with an overview of some of the research conducted on science collaboration,
providing an idiosyncratic perspective that
focuses primarily on science policy. For
those unfamiliar with this body of work,
this section provides an introduction to an
More useful for those interested in improving the practice of science is when the
authors discuss findings from surveys and
interviews with scientists who have had experience working on teams. To frame this,
Bozeman and Youtie adapt the traditional
“input-process-output” model found in organizational research, using context and
people as inputs, collaboration as a process
factor, and research effectiveness as an output. We learn that one’s career stage can
alter perceptions of collaborations in that,
for example, junior colleagues are sometimes expected to accommodate the goals of
more senior researchers. We also learn how
university-industry relationships can influence team process and outcomes by, for example, producing publishing delays due to
intellectual property concerns. Anecdotes
bring life to the abstract framework. Even
if overly simplistic, this is a useful approach
because heuristic categorizations are more
easily remembered by stakeholders.
As is clear from the study of science teams,
tension is part of group dynamics—the be-
havioral, emotional, and cognitive processes
that emerge when we interact to achieve
some goal. But, when stepping back to view
this book from a broader perspective, a dif-
ferent set of tensions emerges around how to
do research on scientific collaborations.
Methods have varied from qualitative to
quantitative, ranging from ethnographies of
researchers embedded in centers, to inter-
views and surveys of scientists, to interven-
tions meant to create changes, to bibliometric
and network science approaches. Each serves
a purpose, but implicit in Bozeman and
Youtie’s book is a kind of framing that dis-
misses some approaches in favor of others.
Can social science research on teamwork
in other domains be used to understand and
improve team effectiveness in the sciences?
Bozeman and Youtie equivocate on this. Al-
though they claim that the social sciences
have informed their thinking and recommen-
dations, the book offers scant discussion of
the vast and diverse literature on teamwork.
The authors also dismiss more than a
decade of research conducted by others
in the burgeoning field known as the “
science of team science” (Sci TS). For a more
robust discussion of this field, and how
social science theory can contribute to our
understanding of research collaborations,
one should consult the National Academies
2015 report on science team effectiveness.
Perhaps most useful is the concluding
chapter, which provides recommendations
for managing science collaborations. With a
mix of affect-laden verbiage (e.g., tyrannical)
and functional processes (e.g., directive), the
reader is given five management approaches.
But this is all prelude to what is arguably the
authors’ main point—providing a description
of “consultative collaboration management”
(CCM)—which, they argue, is the “gold stan-
dard” for managing research collaborations.
CCM, a strategy of the authors’ creation, iden-
tifies core features that are most likely to sup-
port team functioning (e.g., “trust” and “open
disagreement”) and successful scientific out-
comes (e.g., “effective communication”).
Although CCM provides useful heuristic
guidance, calling it the “gold standard” for
research collaboration is premature. When
viewed from the perspective of a science of
team science, the book’s recommendations
would not pass muster as evidence. First,
Bozeman and Youtie’s data are from a sample
of scientists who have worked on teams, not
data from a sample of science teams. As such,
they do not, and cannot, link aggregated
team member attitudes about collaborations
with team-level research outcomes. Second,
and more important, CCM has not been validated to test its claims across science teams.
The Strength in Numbers succeeds in
translating data into one approach for understanding team science. Ultimately, however, any collaboration recommendations
worth considering must reflect a more robust evidentiary base. j
By Stephen M. Fiore
A pair of policy experts highlights tension in team science
and, inadvertently, in the study of scientific teams
The Strength in Numbers
The New Science of
Barry Bozeman and
Princeton University Press,
2017. 239 pp.
Collaborative efforts like the research being conducted by this international team in the northern Arctic Ocean
basin would likely benefit from a clearer understanding of what makes scientific teams successful.
The reviewer is in the Department of Philosophy,
University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL 32816, USA.