Putting the team together

Phase 1: The beginnings --Forming

3a.  Putting a team together with both experienced and new collaborators.

“You can build a research team from the top down (by leaders in their respective fields and/or organizations) or from the bottom up (by junior and senior scientists at the grassroots level). Both approaches can result in the development of highly effective teams.

“A well-known example of the top-down formation of a highly successful research team was the one established by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2003 to solve the spreading SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) pandemic.  WHO brought together 11 researchers from 9 countries to identify the pathogen responsible for SARS deaths. Once organized, the team quickly embraced several key principles of effective teams:

  • frequent communication about data, results and next steps;
  • processes to share data and clinical samples; and
  • shared commitment to a concrete goal.

As a result, a mere month later, the team determined that a previously unrecognized coronavirus was the causative agent of SARS (Pieris, Lae, et al, 2003).

“Bottom-up teams form when scientists identify a common interest and come together to tackle a problem or achieve an agreed-upon goal. Examples of bottom-up teams and collaborations can be found across the biomedical sciences, from simple collaborations to highly complex and interactive research teams.  People will often be drawn together by a common interest and will self-assemble to collaboratively address a challenging question. With leadership support for their scientific endeavors, self-assembled multi-disciplinary efforts can be highly successful.”

Quoted from pages 24-25 in Bennett, L. M., Gadlin, H., Marchand, C. (2018). Collaboration and Team Science Field Guide. 2nd edn., National Institutes of Health Publication No. 18-7660, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, United States of America.



Peiris, J.S.M., Lai, S.T., Poon, L.L.M., Guan, Y., Yam, L.Y.C., Lim, W., Nicholls, J., Yee, W.K.S., Yan, W.W., Cheung, M.T. and Cheng, V.C.C., 2003. Coronavirus as a possible cause of severe acute respiratory syndrome. The Lancet, 361(9366), pp.1319-1325.