EAGER: SaTC: Early-Stage Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Knowledge Convergence and Divergence in Team Performance

Project: Research project

Project Details


Leveraging knowledge resources is one of the hallmarks of successful teams. Team members with diverse expertise and an awareness of 'who knows what' perform better than teams with less diverse perspectives. Since 2013, the National Science Foundation's SaTC program has piloted groups of 'high risk-high reward' EAGER projects to encourage early collaborations between computer and information scientists and behavioral, social, and economic scientists towards improving innovation and effectiveness in SaTC research. The current research will review the experiences of researchers and the outcomes of their projects to better understand that initiative. The project will also allow for insights into how interdisciplinary teams manage the inherent tension between knowledge convergence and divergence. Converging when diverging is needed or diverging when converging is needed mishandles team resources, impairing team processes and performance. Therefore, unlocking the simultaneous influences of knowledge convergence and divergence is central to improving team effectiveness as well as advancing team research in the decades to come. Because NSF and other granting agencies increasingly require team members to represent different disciplines, it is urgent to discover the benefits, limitations, and objective outcomes of promoting collaboration across NSF's directorates. As such, this research has the potential to improve the effectiveness of SaTC, and more generally, science teams, thereby fostering scientific breakthroughs.

How should knowledge convergence and divergence in teams be balanced to maximize performance, innovation, and member satisfaction? The objectives of this research are to 1) conceptually integrate the previously independent areas of team research that have focused either on knowledge convergence or knowledge divergence 2) create new methods to assess the balance (or lack of balance) between knowledge convergence and divergence in teams, and 3) begin to assess the simultaneous effect of knowledge convergence and divergence on team effectiveness. These objectives are fittingly explored in the context of nearly 100 SaTC NSF-funded, cross-disciplinary teams. The first phase of the project involves interviews with members of a subset of interdisciplinary teams to develop metrics to assess the balance of knowledge convergence and divergence. The second phase involves surveys of past and currently funded team members to measure the simultaneous effect of knowledge convergence and divergence on objective outcomes. Outcome metrics assess, from publicly-available data, whether the projects were productive and whether investigators co-published and continued their cross-disciplinary collaboration. Together, these qualitative and quantitative studies advance the rapidly growing science of team science literature which has relied mostly on descriptive and archival research rather than primary data collection. Students will be involved in all phases of the research.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date10/1/193/31/23


  • National Science Foundation: $287,640.00


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