A few weeks ago, the College of Education hosted a panel discussion entitled, “Establishing and Managing Interdisciplinary Research Teams”. For those who missed it, it was very good and included an excellent panel of faculty members including Feng Feng Ke from Education, Neil Charness from Psychology, Rick Feiock from Public Administration and Policy and Gail Bellamy from Medicine. Below are the questions presented, and a summary of the advice given.
Question 1: How do you identify and recruit research team members from other disciplines?
• Establish trust through networks
• Build relationships now, before the RFP comes out
• Your students can help you with connections as they have peers working with other faculty
• Look at the project, figure out what you need to get accomplished
Question 2: And how do you recruit external partners?
• Get involved with community organizations and government agency working groups
• Immerse yourself in activities—interdisciplinary and with other institutes
• Present your work through organizations. Be brave. Look up experts and contact them.
Question 3: How do you delegate tasks to team members during the grant proposal preparation process?
• As PI, lead the writing, create a draft, know the others’ language/lingo
• You must lead, don’t just delegate—and make sure the proposal is written in a single voice
• Get together, in person if possible. Build rapport
• Try using “round robin writing”
• Everything slips (timing wise). Make sure you have a buffer in your timeline.
Question 4: How do you keep team members on task as the research is being conducted?
• Regular meetings. Tasks and Milestones set.
• Much reminding
• Don’t just meet to meet. Show progress reports (peer pressure. Make sure everyone’s bosses are aware of the success of the project
• Have hierarchies of command on big projects.
• Don’t let your teams fall apart. Have events to keep the group cohesive.
Question 5: What if they don’t behave?
• Confront your colleagues
• If you have to, be prepared to cut out a node.
• This is why you need to know people well BEFORE you ask them to be on your team.
• Intervention – control the purse strings.
• Budget for backup personnel if possible. You might be able to even use an advisory board member or a great grad student to fill the gap.
Question 6: How do you share information and documents among researchers?
• Remember, you will need to communicate in the way the least tech literate person can work
• Try to work with tech savvy people
• Hire a student to take meeting minutes or get someone to take notes.
• Make sure your project is sustainable. Don’t collaborate with an outside entity and leave them hanging when the project ends.
• Be responsible. Do reading in others’ areas. Make the effort.
• Create small projects to bring people together before the big projects come along.
Interested in learning more? Check out the video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ts13o-sOMU&t=2833s