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A systems approach to enable effective team science from the internal research program of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences

Amanda L. Vogel, Ann R. Knebel, Jessica M. Faupel-Badger, Lili M. Portilla, Anton Simeonov

Abstract: The internal research program of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) at the National Institutes of Health aims to fundamentally transform the preclinical translational research process to get more treatments to more people more quickly. The program develops and implements innovative scientific and operational approaches that accelerate and enhance translation across many diverse projects. Cross-disciplinary team science is a defining feature of our organization, with scientists at all levels engaged in multiple research teams. Here, we share our systems approach to nurturing cross-disciplinary team science, which leverages organizational policies, structures, and processes. Policies including the organizational mission statement, principles for ethical conduct of research, performance review criteria, and training program objectives and approaches reinforce the value of team science to achieve the program’s scientific goals. Structures including an organizational structure designed around solving translational problems, co-location of employees in a single state-of-the-art scientific facility, and shared-use laboratories, expertise and instrumentation facilitate collaboration. Processes including fluid team assembly, specialized project management, cross-agency partnerships, and decision making based on clear screening criteria and milestones enable effective team assembly and functioning. We share evidence of the impact of these approaches on the science and commercialization of findings and discuss pathways to broad adoption of similar approaches.
Keywords: decision making / science / structures / enable effective team / systems approach / diverse / functioning

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