Critical factors impacting interdisciplinary university research teams of small size: A multiple-case study

Oleksandr Tkachenko, Alexandre Ardichvili

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Purpose: This study aims to explore key factors influencing the work of interdisciplinary university research teams of small size. Design/methodology/approach: This is a multiple-case study of four interdisciplinary university research teams of small size in which science and/or engineering was an important component. Findings: Data analysis revealed 17 critical factors classified into five groups. Although some factors were more influential than others, it was rather multiple factors at various levels of analysis, and not a single factor, that influenced the work of research teams. Another important finding was the identified need to develop project management capacity of university researchers. The study also revealed two strategies, conditioned on the availability of funds, that small university research teams use as a way to adapt to situational demands and research opportunities. Originality/value: Although previous research examined various aspects pertinent to the work of industry research teams and large research groups, empirical research into interdisciplinary university research teams of small size has been limited.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-69
Number of pages17
JournalTeam Performance Management
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Mar 14 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
There are several important aspects that make academic research teams different from other (e.g. commercial) research teams. Academic research teams typically consist of a senior researcher (or several senior researchers) and a number of junior researchers (students and post docs). Their research is usually financed through small (seed) grants acquired on a competitive basis to stimulate the development of funding from extramural resources and to bring the existing projects to fruition. The grant funding that teams receive often pays for graduate students and post-doc scholars working in the teams. In turn, research teams in industry are typically composed of scientists who graduated from higher education institutions and work full-time in commercial organizations. The work of commercial research teams is often directed toward achieving the profitability goals of their companies. Researchers in university teams are often expected to publish their work in academic journals. In turn, members of commercial teams have other pressures and expectations set by senior executives.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Case study
  • Interdisciplinary research
  • Team
  • Teamwork


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