IEEE Systems, Man and Cybernetics Magazine - October 2019 - 14

interdisciplinary approaches to climate change). Experts
decided at the onset of work, then distribution becomes
ranging from earth scientists, chemists, biologists, civil
very muddied and transdisciplinary work becomes even
engineers, industrial engineers, to computer scientists rep-
more difficult.
resent just a few of the many domains that must be tapped
to tackle such a complex problem.
Team Science and Cognition
When considering whether a problem is inherently
Most of the recommendations here are grounded in the
transdisciplinary, it is useful to analyze it both locally and
areas of team science and team cognition. Team science is
globally to understand the potential diversity associated
a relatively new domain of research that specifically
with that problem. Local analysis is the easier of the two
focuses on studying how large interdisciplinary teams of
and simply requires the examination of the problem from
scientists work together. The aforementioned National
the perspective to which it is most closely aligned. Revisit-
Academies of Science study is a fundamental resource to
ing climate change as an example, a local analysis requires
improving transdisciplinary work. Moving forward, more
looking at it from the perspective of earth science (its most
empirical research is required to further understand the
dominant domain). The need for transdisciplinary work
challenges faced by large science teams. This research will
may stem from this local analysis, depending on how var-
then inform transdisciplinary work.
ied the dominant perspective.
Team cognition is needed to improve team science and
transdisciplinary
work. Team cognition is the cognitive
Global analysis requires more creative, outside-the-
activity
that
takes
place at the team level and often
box thinking. I like to think of most large challenges
results in a shared understanding
as systems-integration problems,
of both teamwork and taskwork.
because they are grounded in
It is often viewed from a macro-
many different systems at once,
cognitive perspective where the
and a perturbation to one system
Not all research
focus is on how cognition occurs
may directly or indirectly drasti-
in natural environments [11]. The
cally impact another system. So,
should or needs to be
concept of team cognition is well
with global analysis, you need to
transdisciplinary.
founded in multiple scientific
think about all of the associated
communities and is most often
systems/domains that are both
associated with the concept of a
directly and indirectly linked to
team mental model [12].
your problem. Depending on the
Transdisciplinary teams need team cognition. The com-
complexity of the problem, it may very well be paramount
position of a transdisciplinary team by definition requires
to bring in experts from these systems to provide a wholis-
different perspectives. Therefore, these teams start out
tic understanding of the problem.
working with very different individual cognition and, to
develop a shared understanding of the varied cognition on
Shared Spaces and Mechanisms
the team, they must communicate and share their individ-
The nature of transdisciplinary work often requires scien-
ual cognition. If these transdisciplinary teams fail to devel-
tists in different places to work together. As we know, dis-
op common ground or have a shared understanding, it
tributed work can be challenging for a multitude of
makes problem solving and working together very diffi-
reasons. Colleagues should take a look at the computer-
cult. In sum, transdisciplinary teams must proactively
supported cooperative work community for an overview
work together (through communication) early on in the
of the pain points associated with distributed work [10].
work process to develop team cognition.
More specifically, there is an SMC technical committee on
computer-supported cooperative work in design that is
helpful in learning more about this community. In general,
Credit
the best approach to alleviating this problem is setting
Who gets credit for what in a transdisciplinary team? This
forth a work plan from the beginning of the transdisci-
is not an easy question to answer, and this article will not
plinary project.
attempt to provide an answer. Both academia and industry
A work plan should clearly articulate how work will
should better support and provide work credit to trans-
be completed and shared among various members of the
disciplinary team members. Regardless of the context,
team. A platform of information communication technolo-
whether in industry or academia, people want to be
gy needs to be chosen, and the overall team must agree
acknowledged for the work they have conducted and
and buy into the notion of only using that platform. Is digi-
given credit. From an institutional perspective, there must
tal communication going to be facilitated via email or a
be an understanding that there is a give and take that
occurs during transdisciplinary teamwork. For example,
platform like Slack? What file-sharing platform will be
not all team members will be able to always publish in
used? What audio/video-teleconferencing platform will be
their concentration, and institutions need to be sensitive to
selected, and who will lead associated meetings? These
that. Speaking directly to academia, if there is going to
may seem like unimportant questions, but if they are not
14

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IEEE Systems, Man and Cybernetics Magazine - October 2019

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