Increasingly, interdisciplinary teams are seen as the key to accelerating research progress across a broad spectrum of fields, not least, clinical and translational research. Team training and support has become a high priority of the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences that manages the Clinical and Translational Science Awards program and its network of sixty-plus sites nationwide including UW ICTR.
Elizabeth Burnside, MD, MPH, MS, SMPH Associate Dean for Team Science & Interdisciplinary Research and ICTR Deputy Executive Director, comments,
I’m a long-time practitioner of and advocate for team science, so it was very exciting for me when Allan (Brasier), joined us as our ICTR Executive Director. He is a national leader in team science implementation and under his leadership we have already launched new initiatives in Team Science education with our junior clinical and translational investigators, and are promoting team development approaches to established translational research teams.
Beginning in 2017, Team Science training for KL2 Scholars was included in the required curriculum for that program; TL1 trainees will have a similar requirement starting Fall 2019. In addition, a new TL1 application option was offered this winter that provided an opportunity to apply as a team.
ICTR has also begun offering a condensed version of Team Science training to select ICTR pilot award teams. Finally, ICTR will launch customizable training sessions in 2019 for groups interested in learning and applying best practices to collaborative, cross-disciplinary work. Burnside adds,
Typically, transdisciplinary groups develop shared goals, but importantly, they also tend to modify their original research questions and create novel approaches. The creativity and innovation inherent in team science is what I hope we can advance at ICTR and SMPH.
New Team Science Leadership for ICTR
In late 2018, ICTR welcomed Betsy Rolland, PhD, MLIS, MPH, as a new ICTR director for the Team Science initiative. Rolland’s research focuses on coordination and collaboration in team-science projects, including how to design, build, and evaluate Team Science infrastructure.
Allan Brasier, MD, ICTR Executive Director and SMPH Senior Associate Dean for Clinical and Translational Research, notes,
Initially, our Team Science workgroup focused on gathering data and analyzing team dynamics of new ICTR pilot award teams. We are very pleased to welcome someone with Betsy’s expertise as our first dedicated director for ICTR team science initiatives. Her insight into facilitating complex, multi-investigator projects will be key to growth of our programs.
Rolland, who has served as the UWCCC Assistant Director for Population Sciences for the past three years, will transition to a new role as the Director of Research Development and Team Science, serving teams in both ICTR and UWCCC. At ICTR, Rolland will lead the ICTR Team Science workgroup, develop team-based interventions to help new teams get up and running successfully, identify local and national resources that can be directed to team facilitation and project management-related guidance, and advance the ongoing development of a skills/competency-based training program in Team Science. She adds,
I want to extend a sincere thank you to ICTR colleagues Chris Pfund, Sai Suryanarayanan, Chris Sorkness, Peggy Hatfield, Kate Judge, and Linda Scholl for getting these activities underway. They developed a very strong base for building out our Team Science program and I am excited by the potential for integrating Team Science into more aspects of ICTR programming.
Strategic Alliance Program Offers Custom Team Science Services
The next phase in ICTR support for team science will include working with existing groups moving into new research areas. In April 2019, ICTR launched a Precision Medicine Strategic Alliance Program to facilitate the expansion of established clinical and translational research programs into approaches using proteomics and metabolomics technology to improve diagnostics or disease management.
One of the key advantages for awardees will be creation of a tailored team development program established in collaboration with ICTR Team Science experts. This program will include both Team Science training and project management services, plus support for ongoing project development, developing plans for dissemination and entrepreneurship, and assistance with integrating samples from special populations, as needed. Brasier summarizes,
The new strategic alliance program is a valuable opportunity for us to combine ICTR’s array of services and Team Science to research areas that will advance personalized medicine with potential for significant public health impact. The entry of established teams into research areas where they will need new strategic team members is an excellent use case for the value of Team Science.
Strategic Alliance awardees will be announced mid summer.