Teamwork: Navigate the Downs and Facilitate the Ups

Silvana Quiton (ESR1)

It has been suggested that the Homo Sapiens secret of success is large-scale cooperation (Harari, 2019). From humanity early beginnings till now, we have created very sophisticated networks of cooperation in our modern life.

Scientific community is based on cooperation

Cooperation within the scientific community is a long time recipe for success due to the multiple advantages it provides. Team up with other researchers is a common practice to get more publications, write more robust grant proposals, exchange expertise, and learn from each other. Still, it also has to overcome some challenges: the uneven strength of partners, gender discrimination, and exclusionary behavior (Wang and Kong, 2019). Many believe that the future of science is based on improving cooperation by learning how to work more effectively with each other. In fact, one of the main goals of our project is to foster research cooperation among different research groups through our joint PhD.

Being part of the scientific community means sharing the same values and the same principles. As an early-stage researcher, I also must comply with the code of ethics and follow a scientific method to do my research. This will ultimately be published in a peer-review publication. The conduct of the peer-review process is a quality check for research that allows you to share your research with a broader audience. Thus, we can trust other people’s work. And trust is a critical component in science. Especially important when it comes to teamwork.

Teamwork makes science better but there is some science in teamwork

So we know collaboration is a clear advantage, but how can we improve this aspect? In my opinion, there is no single recipe for making collaboration work. Still, there are indeed some effective approaches, and some pitfalls to avoid.

One of the articles that inspired me to write this blog was based on insightful lessons from years of research on teamwork (Coleman, 2018). What draws my attention from this study is that establishing some common ground, providing psychological safety and having cooperative goals, while “needing” constructive conflict helped teams to thrive. The importance of teamwork and behavior psychology really resonates with me. After all, we are emotional human beings, and emotional intelligence is a crucial skill in teamwork (as Francis said on his blog).

Teamwork to the rescue

It is no surprise that a PhD journey is full of ups and downs. Working in teams can definitely help navigate the downs and facilitate the ups. And while finding our individual path is essential, having cooperative goals and learning how to work together is critical.

In USC, I am part of a group called Biogroup, but instead of seeing it just as a group, I consider it a research team. Inside the team, we have different people dedicated to various tasks, from administrative to technical lab staff. And they are all there in helping us to reach our daily goals more smoothly. As explained in my previous blog, I’m currently working with RNA extraction, something completely new for me. Still, luckily for me, I have both a microbiologist that guides me and the experience of a lab colleague, I can always ask for tips and tricks. These very handfuls of insights provided for our lab colleagues are paramount, and they saved me a lot of time. The same happens when I´m trying new experiments in the lab. For example, when developing a new method to quantify my antibiotics, we also received handy comments by analytical experts from ICRA, partners of the Nowelties consortia.

Cooperation for the greater good

If I look back to my experience so far, I realize that I couldn’t have done it without the help and collaboration of different actors. This blog is dedicated to all the people that I have the luck to interact with on a daily base. In fact, they are continuously encouraging me to fulfill my goals. Working together to achieve greater good is just what is expected of science. For us, within the Nowelties team, we are entrusted with the challenging task of finding sustainable solutions for water treatment, but luckily we are not alone.

Harari, Y. N. (2019). Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (pp. 978-0099590088). Vintage.
Wang, G., Kong, Q., 2019. The Dilemmas of Scientific Research Cooperation and Their Resolution From the Perspective of Evolutionary Psychology. Front. Psychol. 10, 1–4. Coleman, P. (2018). The Science of Teamwork. Five actionable lessons from the lab. Posted Jun 14, 2018.
Pain, E. Collaborating for the win Posted Feb 28, 2018
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