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Science facilitation: Navigating the intersection of intellectual and interpersonal expertise in scientific collaboration

August 5, 2022

Today’s societal challenges, such as climate change and global pandemics, are increasingly complex and require collaboration across scientific disciplines to address. Scientific teams bring together individuals of varying backgrounds and expertise to work collaboratively on creating new knowledge to address these challenges. Within a scientific team, there is inherent diversity in disciplinary cultures and preferences for interpersonal collaboration. Such diversity contributes to the potential strength of the created knowledge but can also impede progress when teams struggle to collaborate productively. Facilitation is a professional practice-based form of interpersonal expertise that supports group members to do their best thinking. Although facilitation has been demonstrated to support group functioning in a wide range of contexts, its role in supporting scientific teams has been largely overlooked. This essay defines scientific facilitation as a form of interactional expertise and explains how facilitating scientific teams requires skills in managing interpersonal interactions as well as understanding how different types of disciplinary knowledge integrate in the creation of new knowledge. Next, it explains how this science facilitation expertise may be developed through metacognition. Finally, it provides examples of how scientific facilitation could be more widely incorporated into research by describing three pathways to expand the use of facilitation theory and techniques in collaborative scientific research: developing facilitation skills among scientists leading teams, using broadly trained facilitators, and using specialised science facilitators. The strengths and risks of each path are discussed, and criteria are suggested for selecting the right approach for a given team science project.

Publication Year 2022
Title Science facilitation: Navigating the intersection of intellectual and interpersonal expertise in scientific collaboration
DOI 10.1057/s41599-022-01217-1
Authors Amanda E. Cravens, Megan Siobhan Jones, Courtney Ngai, Jill Zarestky, Hannah B. Love
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Humanities and Social Sciences Communications
Index ID 70234301
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Seattle; Fort Collins Science Center