Interdisciplinary teams are on the rise as scientists attempt to address
complex environmental issues. While the benefits of Team Science
approaches are clear, researchers often struggle with its
implementation, particularly for new team members. The challenges of
large projects often weigh on the most vulnerable members of a team:
trainees, including undergraduate students, graduate students, and
post-doctoral researchers. Trainees on big projects have to navigate
their role on the team, with learning project policies, procedures, and
goals, all while also training in key scientific tasks such as
co-authoring papers. To address these challenges, we created and
participated in a project-specific, graduate-level Team Science course.
The purposes of this course were to: (1) introduce students to the goals
of the project, (2) build trainees’ understanding of how big projects
operate, and (3) allow trainees to explore how their research interests
dovetailed with the overall project. Additionally, trainees received
training regarding: (1) diversity, equity & inclusion, (2) giving and
receiving feedback, and (3) effective communication. Onboarding through
the Team Science course cultivated psychological safety and a
collaborative student community across disciplines and institutions.
Thus, we recommend a Team Science course for onboarding students to big
projects to help students establish the skills necessary for
collaborative research. Project-based Team Science classes can benefit
student advancement, enhance the productivity of the project, and
accelerate the discovery of solutions to ecological issues.