Current trends validate the notion that multifaceted, multimodal interdisciplinary collaborations lead to increased research productivity in publications and citations, compared to those achieved by individual researchers. Moreover, it may be that scientific breakthroughs are increasingly achieved by interdisciplinary research teams. Nonetheless, despite the perceived importance of collaboration and its bibliometric benefits, today’s scientists are still trained to be autonomous, work individually, and encourage their graduate students to do the same—perpetuating values which impede the creation of collaborative space between disciplines. As a consequence, scientists working in teams typically report serious obstacles to collaboration. This paper builds off of recent recommendations from a 2015 National Academies report on the state of team science which emphasizes greater definition of roles, responsibility, accountability, goals, and milestones. However, these recommendations do not address the subjective, relational components of collaboration which can drive innovation and creativity. The relational side of collaboration is key to understanding the capacity and capabilities of the knowledge workers, such as scientists and engineers, who comprise interdisciplinary research teams. The authors’ recommendations, grounded in organizational communication and knowledge worker literature, include a renewed focus on the process of organizing through communication rather than focusing on organization as an outcome or consequence of teamwork, leading and cultivating team members rather than managing them, and the need to address self-driven, rather than external, motivations to engage in knowledge work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)144-155
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironment Systems and Decisions
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017


  • Collaboration
  • Communicative construction of organizations
  • Emotional leadership
  • Interdisciplinary science
  • Knowledge work
  • Team science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science


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