04 Mar 2022
04 Mar 2022
Status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Strengthening interdisciplinary water research – learnings from sports team management

Maija Taka1, Katri Eeva2, Maria Törnroos3, and Olli Varis1 Maija Taka et al.
  • 1Water and Environmental Engineering Research Group, P.O.Box 15200, FI-00076, Aalto University, Finland
  • 2Faculty of Education and Culture, Tampere University, Finland
  • 3Department of Management and Organisation, Hanken School of Economics, P.O. Box 479, FI-00101 Helsinki, Finland

Abstract. Well-functioning teams with clear roles and advanced processes have a high potential to initiate peer learning and thus interdisciplinary collaboration. The need for interdisciplinary excellence is a modern-day phenomenon that characterizes all research, including water research. In this paper, we argue that by focusing on developing team culture and practices, a research group enhances their peer learning and psychological safety within and beyond the group. We approach this issue by summarizing the key findings from a five-year team development project in water research, where the data collection focused on co-creation practices, active reflection, and journey mapping methods. These findings were described through a sports team framework and presented through Tuckman’s team development model to capture the whole life cycle of a team. We present a collection of hands-on team practices that improved team performance and psychological safety by enhancing peer learning and utilizing the diverse competence of individuals. A diverse team with a hybrid hierarchy, transparent communication, and co-designed collaboration practices turned out to be important to strengthen commitment, belongingness, and psychological safety. These were critical especially for doctoral students who were actively supported and encouraged for risk-taking and innovative, interdisciplinary research openings in water research. We conclude that coordinating research group activities that promote collaboration, diversity, and psychological safety can efficiently leverage interdisciplinary academic and educational performance.

Maija Taka et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on hess-2022-85', Erik Mostert, 23 Mar 2022
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Maija Taka, 17 May 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on hess-2022-85', Anonymous Referee #2, 20 Apr 2022
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Maija Taka, 17 May 2022

Maija Taka et al.

Maija Taka et al.


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Short summary
Interdisciplinary research stems from well-functioning research teams. We provide key findings and practices from our five-year empirical study on a water engineering research group. The group culture focused on co-developing practices to enhance peer learning, collaboration, and thus new research openings. We use a sports team framework to capture the team development process. The collection of hands-on team practices support to initiate sustainable interdisciplinary research on water.