The Work of Research Initiative

To optimize the work of collaborative research teams, the Work Science Institute's Work of Research Initiative brings together experience with researchers at three major research universities, and with research-oriented business, large and small, over a period of 30 years, to develop a suite of innovations and practices to improve the Work of Research at the levels of the individual researcher, principal investigator, lab, and department, particularly in the context of multi-disciplinary research and teams.

These innovations, each developed directly with active researchers, and incorporating research and practice on human performance in the workplace, include:
  • Developing consistent research competitiveness for a Research I university today requires consistent excellence, across a range of subject areas and a wider range of PIs, in (a) creating, forming , and delivering interdisciplinary research efforts that (b) utilize multi-disciplinary research teams, in (c) multi-institutional settings.

  • At present, most PIs learn the required skills and practices for managing research teams (if they do), either (a) from their own mentors, or (b) on the job, with trial and error, using the Federal government’s money and a university’s people.

  • This approach is problematic, because (a) a PI’s mentoring may either be productive or counterproductive in these matters (and it is most likely a mix); while (b) current practices have almost always been developed from the idealized small research group with an individual PI at the bench working with an individual trainee—which almost never happens anymore. And which does not—and this is crucial—scale to larger groups; multiple disciplines; and multiple institutions.

  • Instead, it is possible to consistently create, develop, and manage interdisciplinary and multi-institutional research projects using an approach that begins (a) with the research aims of the effort and (b) with developing the performance that is required to reach those aims, combining these with (c) research and practices on human performance, specifically those used in other high-stress, high-performance situations (such as those encountered by elite Olympic athletes and by firefighters).

  • This approach provides PIs, department heads, and others directly involved in the Work of Research, with practical training that helps to tackle the most vexing issues encountered (such as how to select people into a group and how to prevent and deal with problem performance when it occurs during a project.).  It encourages PIs to focus their research aims and use these to develop a Performance Foundation for all practices in their groups.  And it provides a participating institution with a competitive advantage, because competing institutions will instead be relying on outmoded practices developed informally for research settings of another time.

 The Work Science Institute is developing a coordinated program on the Work of Research, one that ties together, with common content, the following key steps:

  • Training for PIs and other researchers, in a combined training/peer learning setting.
  • Leadership Training for key university research leaders, in a leadership training/peer roundtable setting.  Coupled with train-the-trainer training for deputies.  
  • A book, “The Work of Research: Creating, Developing, and Managing High-Performing Research Teams,” currently in preparation for the MIT Press.
  • Communication and credentialing: Ensuring that the university’s investment in the Work of Research can be communicated effectively to granting agencies in ways that increase the likelihood of success for participating multi-disciplinary research initiatives and teams.
For more information on how the Work of Research Initiative can help your lab, department, university, research organization, company, or research unit, email: