Nearly 500 global science academics, industry leaders, and representatives from government and research agencies convened in an online forum in June for the 12th Annual International Science of Team Science Conference (SciTS 2021), hosted by Virginia Tech.

This year’s conference was organized to advance the understanding of collaborative initiatives that address multidimensional and complex societal problems and provide a platform to investigate contributions that team science research can make to addressing urgent contemporary challenges.

Participants from China, India, Netherlands, Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, Nigeria, South Africa, Germany, Brazil, Switzerland, Japan, Sweden, Belgium, Austria, and the U.S. took advantage of the accessibility and ease of participating in this year’s online conference.

As host university, Virginia Tech organized a number of dynamic discussions and presentations designed to promote the development and coordination of laws, policies, strategies, and practices that address urgent societal challenges. The conference specifically emphasized the diversity of experiences and perspectives that contribute to the study and practice of collaboration by engaging participants from nonprofits, social enterprises, academic leaders, local and federal government agencies, for-profit enterprise, and a wide range of academic disciplines.

“As the world endures a once-in-a-century devastating pandemic, the 12th Annual International Science of Team Science Conference serves as a beacon for how we as a society can overcome global challenges," said Lance Collins, conference keynote speaker, and vice president and executive director for Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus. “The panelists and speakers emphasized the power of transdisciplinary research, but also that it takes a new set of intellectual muscles to harness that power.

“SciTS, and by extension the 2021 conference, focus on effective strategies that promote spanning disciplinary and even human boundaries to achieve intellectual goals and solve complex problems.”

“Science of Team Science and the Human Condition” served as the theme of SciTS 2021. The conference highlighted the interface of the science of team science with societal challenges, such as responding to mega-disasters (e.g., the COVID-19 pandemic, hurricanes, and fires); curtailing systemic racism and the need to create and implement anti-racist policies and practices, including technologies; and grappling with social and economic challenges in large, growing metropolitan regions.

“The [SciTS2021] conference tackled some of the biggest global challenges of our day,” said Lori Peek, opening keynote speaker, and professor and director of the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado Boulder. “Speakers from across the nation and around the world showed how the Science of Team Science can make a difference in informing issues related to technological change, a warming planet, and population growth in urban areas, just to name a few. This is one of the most intellectually stimulating meetings I have ever attended.”

In addition to Collins and Peek, keynote speakers included Sabine Hoffmann, leader for inter- and transdisciplinary research at The Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, and Gopi Gopalakrishnan, president of World Health Partners. Virginia Tech President Tim Sands and Executive Vice President and Provost Cyril Clarke offered conference welcome remarks. The conference also featured a slate of presentations, workshops, and collaborative panels from world-class scholars, educators, and practitioners of team science from around the world.

“The conference expanded our understanding of collaborative scholarship and problem solving beyond scientific and cross-disciplinary teams to large scale, cross-sectoral collaborative initiatives,” said Shalini Misra, conference co-chair and associate professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech. “We were able to broaden participation in the Science of Team Science field by tapping on the insights of scientists, scholars, leaders, and practitioners across the globe, taking advantage of the best features of online meetings.”

SciTS 2021 offered Virginia Tech an opportunity to showcase several university programs, departments, and initiatives, such as Destination Areas, the Center for Public Administration and Policy, Urban Affairs and Planning, Center of Biostatistics and Health Data Science, Integrated Translational Health Research Institute, Honors College, Tech for Humanity, and Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment.

“The conference provided Virginia Tech scholars and leaders to engage with universities across the world to share insights on the institutional structures and approaches to transdisciplinary research and education. It opened up new ways of thinking about the infrastructure needed to nurture transdisciplinary research and education at Virginia Tech,” said Misra.

For more information about International Network for the Science of Team Science (INSciTS) or the SciTS 2021 conference, visit

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