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Professor Catherine Lyall shares learnings on how to build “swift trust” in Team Science and Transdisciplinary Collaborations

SHAPE-ID team member Professor Catherine Lyall delivered the opening keynote at the 13th Annual International Science of Team Science Conference (SciTS) on August 02. The keynote was part of an exciting programme in the virtual conference where SHAPE-ID colleagues Christian Pohl, Bianca Vienni-Baptista and Isabel Fletcher also contributed with sessions on cognition and collaboration, and collaborations across cultures and communities.

Professor Lyall opened the talk sharing her personal story with interdisciplinary research (IDR), and how the SHAPE-ID toolkit helped to address the paradox of this type of research: IDR is promoted at policy level in response to societal challenges but poorly encouraged or rewarded at institutional level (funding and academic structures). The talk then focused on the need for time to develop work that crosses established boundaries and what can be done when time is limited[1].

Team Science and transdisciplinary collaborations need to overcome differences in methodology, culture, language, and the multiple literatures that are brought together in these collaborative endeavours. Extra time is needed to navigate these differences and build trust between team members. Professor Lyall reminded attendees that building trust is not an end in itself: trust increases commitment, and both trust and commitment are seen as prerequisites for building effective coordination among actors.

Sharing learnings from a recent project led by Dr Isabel Fletcher[2], Professor Lyall summarised important insights when developing collaborations in crisis situations. Regular communication and co-ordination of activities were highlighted, and the need to ensure that institutional memories of effective responses are retained for use in future crises. Trusted intermediaries was one of the most important learnings, given the key role they play in bringing new teams together and building trust across professional cultures. Who plays this role with and within government agencies? How are they recognised, rewarded and funded? Professor Lyall pointed out that many of these questions remain unanswered, despite representing an urgent requirement for science policy and a much-needed change in our research culture.

Professor Lyall ended her talk with a stark reminder to policymakers and funders, in line with results of SHAPE-ID and the practice and literature of Transdisciplinarity and Team Science:

As contemporary and future research problems require increasing collaboration across disciplines and sectors, we must question how we fund research in order to sustain the complex multi-partner projects required to address pressing global social challenges. It is vital that such funding also includes adequate resources for networking, co-ordination, integration and brokerage and that these functions are accorded appropriate status within the collaboration.

The SciTS 2022 Conference is the flagship event of the International Network for the Science of Team Science (INSciTS). For more information, check


[1] See also

[2] Lessons learned – A review of the development of the SARS-CoV-2 wastewater screening programme in Scotland.

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