Collaborating with the Community: The Extra-Territorial Translational Research Team
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The purpose of the present study is to suggest a revision of the team science concept to the more inclusive extra-territorial research team (ETRT). Translational thinking is largely marked by the perception of the team as a thing-like structure at the center of the scientific activity. Collaboration accordingly involves bringing external others (e.g., scientists, community members, and clinicians) into the team through limited or dependent participation. We suggest that a promising and innovative way to see the team is as an idea: a schema for assembling and managing relationships among otherwise disparate individuals with vested interests in the problem at hand. Thus, the ETRT can be seen as a process as well as an object. We provide a case study derived from a qualitative analysis of the impact of the logic of translational science on a team assessment of environmental health following an off-coast oil disaster. The ETRT in question displayed the following principles of constructive relationship management: a high sense of adventure given the quick pace and timeliness given the relevance of the oil spill to all team members; regular meetings in the community to avoid the appearance of academic hegemony; open access by lay as well as institutional scientists; integration of emergency management coordinators into the group; and the languages of public health, environmental pharmacology/toxicology and coastal culture seamlessly interwoven in discussion. The ETRT model is an appropriate strategy for mobilizing and integrating the knowledge and skills needed for comprehensive science and service responses, especially during crisis.