An evolution toward team science
The basic premise of the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center Ohio Collaborative is that the causes of preterm birth involve highly interactive biologic and environmental factors that will not be uncovered by singular studies from isolated disciplines. Rather, the guiding premise is based on a commitment to craft investigational collaborations, integrated datasets, and innovative analytic tools that will generate new insights into the complex causes of preterm birth. Our virtual transdisciplinary and transinstitutional center assembles scientists from diverse fields to share knowledge and integrate data systems to transform one another’s perspectives and craft a rich analytic framework to understand what has until now remained a mystery.
Transdisciplinary research addresses a single topic from many perspectives, while creating shared knowledge, new methods that reveal new insights, and new syntheses aimed at solving a real world problem. For example, one area of study, Evolutionary Synthesis of Human Pregnancy, includes evolutionary biologists, physiologists, social anthropologists, obstetricians, and developmental biologists. Similar transdisciplinary teams have been assembled for the other research themes including Genetics of Unique Human Populations, which will explain whether certain patterns of genetic variation in different populations can serve as a means to identify preterm birth risk genes. Sociobiology of Racial Disparities in Preterm Birth, another research theme, involves a community of epidemiologists, biostatisticians, geneticists, molecular biologists, obstetricians, pediatricians, nutritionists, health outcomes researchers, sociologists and psychologists.
Building a community of these types of disparate relationships will move from local collaborations and partial intellectual discussions to more global collaborations and increasingly broad and deep intellectual integration. This new transdisciplinary approach will create a new intellectual community focused on an identifiable topic, by sharing methodological approaches and understandings.
The March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center Ohio Collaborative will develop the infrastructure and foundational elements of transdisciplinary research as a means of accelerating the answers to complex medical and environmental problems impacting preterm birth that couldn’t be found by more traditional forms of research.