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National Cancer Institute

Research versus Development Teams: The Delicate Balance between Freedom and Focus

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Tsao J, Narayanamurti V. Research versus Development Teams: The Delicate Balance between Freedom and Focus. Oral presentation at 2017 SciTS Conference. Clearwater Beach, FL. Jun 13, 2017. New Findings on What Leads to Innovation. Online at:

On the continuum of research to development, research is the end that is most unpredictable and uncertain, in both the timescale and intellectual content of its outcomes. Our experience in the trenches of research and research teams in the physical sciences and engineering has been that the focus such teams bring to their tasks must be balanced by a considerable amount of freedom. Two important examples of such freedom are illustrated in the accompanying graphic, both related to the SciTS concept of “permeability.” • In the example on the left, a researcher gains new knowledge that suggests that his or her contribution might be better maximized by switching from one research team to another. The researcher’s freedom to make that switch is critical to the impact of his or her research contribution, but may have detrimental consequences to the research team he or she has abandoned. • In the example on the right, a research team gains new knowledge that suggests that it should change intellectual direction and that it should add or subtract researchers to better align with that new intellectual direction. The research team’s freedom to make these additions or subtractions is critical to the success of its research, but may have detrimental consequences to the researchers who have been added or subtracted. In this talk, we advance the thesis that, for teams towards the research end of the continuum, primacy must be given to the properties of the research ecosystem that facilitate the freedom of researchers and research teams (e.g., the permeability just mentioned). For teams towards the development end of the continuum, knowledge spaces are narrowed purposely to reduce uncertainty, teams are more stable in composition and intellectual direction, and primacy can be shifted to the inner workings of the team itself.



Type of Publication:

Oral presentation


scits 2017 conference, presentation, research versus development, balance, freedom, focus

Addresses these goal(s):

  • Learn about the field of team science: history, theory and concepts
  • Conduct research on/evaluate team science

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Resource created by Jane Hwang on 10/5/2017 1:51:04 PM.

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