The Effect of Team Communication Behaviors and Processes on Interdisciplinary Teams’ Research Productivity and Team Satisfaction

Susan E Morgan, Soyeon Ahn, Alexandra Mosser, Tyler R Harrison, Jue Wang, Qian Huang, Ashley Ryan, Bingjing Mao, John L Bixby
Informing Science: The International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline  •  Volume 24  •  2021  •  pp. 083-110

There is ample evidence that team processes matter more than the characteristics of individual team members; unfortunately, very few empirical studies have examined communication process variables closely or tied them to team outcomes.

The University of Miami Laboratory for Integrated Knowledge (U-LINK) is a pilot funding mechanism that was developed and implemented based on empirically-established best practices established in the literature on the Science of Team Science (SciTS). In addition to addressing grand societal challenges, teams engaged in processes designed to enhance the process of “teaming”. This study uses the Inputs-Mediator-Outputs-Inputs (IMOI) model as a blueprint for an investigation into how team communication processes (shared communication, shared leadership, formal meetings, informal meetings) influence intermediary team processes (goal clarity, role ambiguity, process clarity, trust) and team outcomes (team satisfaction, team productivity).

Monte Carlo methodologies were used to explore both longitudinal self-report (survey of communication and team outcome variables) data and objective data on scholarly productivity, collected from seventy-eight members of eleven real-world intact interdisciplinary teams to explore how team communication processes affect team outcomes.

This study is among the few that centers communication practice and processes in the operationalization and measurement of its constructs and which provides a test of hypotheses centered on key questions identified in the literature.

Communication practices are important to team processes and outcomes. Shared communication and informal meetings were associated with increased team satisfaction and increased research productivity. Shared leadership was associated with increased research productivity, as well as improved process and goal clarity. Formal meetings were associated with increased goal clarity and decreased role ambiguity.

Studying intact interdisciplinary research teams requires innovative methods and clear specification of variables. Challenges associated with access to limited numbers of teams should not preclude engaging in research as each study contributes to our larger body of knowledge of the factors that influence the success of interdisciplinary research teams.

Future research should examine different team formation and funding mechanisms and extend observation and data collection for longer periods of time.

communication, science of team science, team processes, shared leadership, shared communication, team outcomes
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