The power of the personal in team science

Opening ICES conference plenary talk saw Kenneth Rose promote personal interaction in collaborative work and stakeholder engagement during a time of weakening belief in science.
Published: 19 September 2017

​​​​​​​​Rose – Professor in Sustainable Ecosystem Restoration at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Horn Point Laboratory – got the 2017 ICES Annual Science Conference (ASC) underway by focusing on what he considers to be two under-represented characteristics of human​-natural systems: ​multidisciplinary science, particularly individual relationships, and trust between experts and stakeholders.

He began by looking at the increasing team-based and multidisciplinary nature of fisheries and marine science, and​ how a lot of work is done to understand who is working with who in team science, particularly in terms of output such as network analyses. This cooperative aspect also relates to a second trend: greater stakeholder participation.

For Rose, this is all goes back to trust between scientists and stakeholders, something which is currently under threat, notably in the US. This is for a host of reasons, from a dysfunctional scientific process to conflicts of interest and retractions, coupled with an atmosphere where emotions have held sway over objective fact. Lost trust can result confusion and inequity; for fisheries, this can mean not achieving the optimal solution, potentially leading to a compromise, where the resource takes a disproportionate impact.

To this backdrop of growing distrust, the focus should be shifted from the concept of network analyses in team science towards a more human approach. We should look at the people we deal with as individuals, watching and reflecting on our behaviour, how we treat others and how we present ourselves every step of the way. These thoughtful interactions accumulate and should grow into an effect greater than the sum of its parts. This is the root of establishing trust.

Rose highlighted some ways in which team science if being advanced in this way, including student training, room and building design, and institutional changes. Finally he called for self-reflection and keeping track of decisions, before commenting on how socializing can help build trust.

“We do a lot of network analysis, for example, which is great. But it’s the one-on-one individual interactions that add up and accumulate to interactions among people, which determine whether things will be successful. Either in making decisions or team science. I don’t think we emphasize that enough,” said Rose.

“Part of it is how do you respect others, and that’s critical. Those two components: yourself and your respect of others that enables teams to be effective and to have trust – and stakeholders to become part of the solution.”




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​Rose talk was entitled 'Multidisciplinary team science and engaged stakeholders: two often neglected aspects of coupled human-natural systems​'

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The power of the personal in team science

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