Team Research, Data Use, and Authorship
TACERN developed and implemented a data access policy and protocol for study personnel to propose and obtain
approval to conduct studies utilizing the central data set.
The overriding principles guiding data use and sharing
include maintaining the integrity of the study; fairness in
access and use by all contributing investigators; and advancement of scientific knowledge in TSC, ASD, and epilepsy. Any investigator can submit a request to access data
to conduct a study, with all requests processed by the
Clinical Coordinating Center and reviewed by the lead PIs.
Central coordination ensures that the PIs are involved in
decisions about data usage, avoids duplication of effort, and
helps to connect researchers from different sites who have
similar research interests. Thus, cross-site collaboration on
publications is encouraged.
Over the course of study implementation, central leadership has had an important role in the configuration of
writing teams and the process for accessing the centralized
database. The streamlined process for proposing research
projects, approval by the central body, and having PI support for success of articles has encouraged both individual
initiative and collaborative teamwork across disciplines and
sites. On the other hand, there have been times when data
analysis related to one research-approved question has led
to findings that overlap with the work being pursued by a
separate writing team. In those cases, cross-consultation and
collaboration between teams and the inclusion of the primary PIs has been essential to ensure that articles are
coordinated and that all involved coauthors receive appropriate credit and opportunities to contribute. Monthly phone
meetings of the PIs provide an opportunity to review data
requests and the progress of article writing to identify and
resolve potential conflicts.
The Science of Team Science research summarized by
Hall et al. (2018) provides another perspective about the
outcomes of work by teams of researchers. The value of
team science is evidenced by findings that “
boundary-spanning” (Hall et al., 2018, p. 535) across geographic and
organizational boundaries leads to great productivity and
scientific impact and that moderate levels of cross-disciplinary heterogeneity yield highest impact publications
(Onal Vural, Dahlander, & George, 2013; Yegros-Yegros,
Rafols, & D’Este, 2015). Although TACERN is in the early
stages of completing planned research articles, those published so far evidence the potential impact of cross-disciplinary and cross-site collaboration; each has included
named authors from all six sites and across at least three
Hall et al. (2018) also considered the influence of team
composition on research impact. For TACERN, the large
size of the full team combined with the control processes
outlined earlier has enabled efficient collaboration despite
the complexity of the project. Regarding gender, Hall et al.
noted that gender diversity in science teams has been correlated with more citations, and yet many science teams
include few if any women (Kegen, 2013; Stvilia et al.,
2011). On the TACERN team, three of the five PIs are
women, as are all five of the psychology leads. Finally,
inclusion of team members with a range of academic ranks
and roles, including postdoctoral fellows, has been shown to
lead to more publications and more breakthrough publications (Conti & Liu, 2015; Cook, Grange, & Eyre-Walker,
2015). Although it may be too soon to determine whether
these factors will influence the ultimate success of
TACERN, so far six out of the seven publications had junior
faculty first authors and four had female first authors.
Recommendations Related to Team Research,
Data Use, and Authorship
• Large teams that span disciplines, universities, departments, and geographic locations have challenges in ensuring smooth coordination of article development. Essential
to success is strong, engaged leadership, as well as frequent communication. A central process for vetting data
use and article proposals, and for joining researchers
across sites and disciplines with similar interests, leads to
synergy of ideas, stronger ultimate publications, and fair
opportunities for authorship.
• Although complexity and diversity of research teams complicates efficient completion of articles, considering diversity in gender, academic rank, discipline, and inclusion of
postdoctoral fellows and students may increase the impact
and meaningfulness of resulting publications.
Psychology Training Incorporated in Team
The TACERN collaborative has contributed to training of
psychologists and those in other allied health disciplines
through collaboration with LEND interdisciplinary training
programs as a key component in the effort to build an
infrastructure for clinical trials of ASD in infants with TSC.
Since the 1950s, federally funded LEND programs have
provided graduate- and postgraduate-level interdisciplinary
training with an emphasis on developing future leaders in
the field of neurodevelopmental disabilities. ASD-specific
LEND goals include increasing the number of health professionals who can provide evidence-based screening, diagnosis, and treatment for ASD and other developmental
disabilities. LEND trainees come from more than 14 allied
health disciplines and include family members of children
with disabilities and self-advocates ( i.e., trainees with a
disability). Engaging LEND trainees through the TACERN
study reflects priorities for both programs to enhance the
training of future researchers and leaders in academic, policy, and clinical realms with combined expertise in ASD
362 WILLIAMS ET AL.