Importance of diversity

What aspects of diversity are important to consider in research teams?

Team diversity and interpersonal skills astrongly influence research outcomes by affecting critical aspects of team function such as communication patterns, problem solving, and group creativity. Diversity has been found to increase team productivity as well as the quality of research and end products.

Diversity is a multidimensional factor that includes not only gender, ethnicity, career stage, personality, socioeconomic class, life experiences, view-points, and skills, but also how people represent and solve problems (i.e. identity and functional diversity), and people's ability to bridge across disciplinary or knowledge boundaries.

Cheruvelil et al (2014) summarised the successful characteristics of team members for highly performing collaborative research teams from their experience in ecological research.


Diagram depicting the influence of team member diversity and interpersonal skills on team functioning and communication.

This diagram shows different aspects of diversity and how they are important for the functioning of a good research team. For example, You might have both specialists and generalists in the team. They can have quite different ideas about what and how you might be researching. If they can discuss honestly and with high levels of trust, with each bringing different insights, the combined influence could lead the research to a novel standpoint, creating transformative knowledge that wouldn't have arisen from only including one point of view.

More information

Cheruvelil, K. S., P. A. Soranno, K. C. Weathers, P. C. Hanson, S. J. Goring, C. T. Filstrup and E. K. Read (2014). "Creating and maintaining high-performing collaborative research teams: the importance of diversity and interpersonal skills." Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 12(1): 31-38.

Milliken, F. J., Bartel, C.A., & Kurtzberg, T.A. (2003). Creativity and diversity in workgroups. In P. Paulus & Nijstad, B. (Eds.). Group creativity: Innovation through collaboration. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Poole et al 2018. Enhancing Team Science through mobilising the diversity-creativity tension (PDF presentation)

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