Integrative Biology and Infectious Disease Branch
Division of Extramural Research
The objective of this initiative is to support highly integrated research teams to address challenging questions with the potential to significantly advance dental, oral and craniofacial (DOC) fields of research. Each project should have a unified and well-defined scientific goal within the NIDCR mission that requires a team with diverse perspectives and expertise in a variety of intellectual or technical areas and is beyond the experience and capabilities of one or two investigators. Collaborative program teams are expected to accomplish goals that require considerable synergy and managed team interactions.
As modern scientific research addresses more complex, multi-factorial issues, the need for team science is growing. Team science is a collaborative effort that leverages strengths and expertise across a variety of fields to tackle difficult scientific questions. Although traditional single investigator-driven research is well suited for answering many scientific questions, collaborative teams of investigators with diverse skills and knowledge may be particularly helpful for tackling complex scientific problems with transformative, disruptive innovations. The response to the COVID-19 pandemic provides an excellent example of the success of collaborative science, even across previously disconnected fields.
A team science approach expands our ability to pursue challenging problems in a comprehensive, transdisciplinary, rigorous, and mechanistic manner. Principal investigators should each bring a distinct scientific viewpoint or expertise necessary to pursue the transdisciplinary approach. Success of team science hinges on well-managed team interactions, clear timelines and benchmarks for success and evidence of commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Gaps and Opportunities
The goal of this concept is to support transdisciplinary research that solves important problems related to DOC fields. The concept is designed to support highly integrated research teams of three to six principal investigators (PIs) to address ambitious and challenging research questions of high priority to NIDCR. This concept aims to support a team of experts that seek to cross technical and conceptual boundaries through transdisciplinary collaboration to achieve a common goal. The research goal should be cohesive, well-defined, and sufficiently focused so that meaningful and measurable outcomes or deliverables can be achieved. Novel team-science collaborations should focus on challenging and complex research goals that would not be achievable by a single investigator and that are of high priority areas to NIDCR, for example:
- Patient-controlled technologies that draw on best practices from other fields of medicine and that reduce health disparities and/or improve oral health throughout the life span.
- Approaches for prevention of childhood dental caries that will significantly reduce incidents of disease.
- Non-opioid pharmacotherapies treatments for DOC-related pain that minimize undesirable side effects.
- Dental Restorative Systems with clinical service life that exceed current commercial materials.
- Approaches to advance prophylactic and therapeutic strategies to manage HIV and its oral manifestations and comorbidities.
Collaborative science can rapidly advance scientific and technological innovation by increasing research impact, novelty, productivity, and reach. Research by transdisciplinary teams is more likely to put novel combinations of prior work together, and to develop work that integrates novel ideas into high-impact outputs. The team science approach can broaden the reach of research findings across areas of science compared to traditional approaches. Transdisciplinary research has the capacity to speed the generation and dissemination of knowledge and advance scientific innovations. Furthermore, team science can provide an opportunity to increase the diversity of participants, researchers, and research questions.
Currently, NIDCR does not a support a mechanism focused on collaborative science. Since 2012, 69% of NIDCR RPG applications and 71% of RPG awards have been from single PIs. Of the awarded multi-PI (MPI) RPG grants, only 10% were from 4 or more PIs. Furthermore, while NIDCR has supported research on the ambitious topics listed above, fully achieving these transformative goals in DOC will require collaborative, transdisciplinary teams.
- Behavioral Research Program, Division of Cancer Control & Population Sciences, National Cancer Institute. (2021). NCI Team Science Toolkit. Last Updated: May 27, 2021.
- Uzzi B, Mukerjee S, Stringer M, and Jones BF. (2013). Atypical combinations and scientific impact (PDF – 1.4 MB). Science, 342(6157):468-472.
- Stipelman BA, Hall KL, Zoss A, Okamoto J, Stokols D, and Börrner K. (2014). Mapping the impact of transdisciplinary research: A visual comparison of investigator initiated and team-based tobacco use research publications (PDF – 1 MB). SciMed Central, Special Issue on Collaboration Science and Translational Medicine.
- Bennett LM, Gadlin H, and Marchand C. (2018). Collaboration Team Science Field Guide (PDF – 1 MB).
- Volkow ND. (2022). Tackling Complex Scientific Questions Requires a Team Approach. NIH Director’s Blog. 2022 Jul 11.