Keynote – Noshir Contractor

Moneyball for nanoHUB: Theory-driven and Data-driven Approaches to understand the Formation and Success of Software Development Teams

Given the increasing importance of teams in producing high-impact innovations, it is important for success in all of the domains in which teams are critical that we understand how to assemble innovation-ready teams. While there is considerable research on how to make teams more effective once they are formed, there is growing evidence that the assembly of the team itself influences the range of possible outcomes. Most prior work on teams is based on the premise that the team has been formed and fails to investigate the mechanisms that influence the assembly of teams and their impact on team processes and outcomes. This paper seeks to understand and enable the assembly of innovative scientific teams. We use theory-driven (social science theories) as well as data-driven (data/text mining and machine learning algorithms) to discern factors that explain/predict assembly of innovative scientific teams.

We define team assembly as the set of principles that jointly determine how a team is formed. Team assembly is a multilevel construct, capturing the sets of factors occurring at four levels of emergence that determine how teams come together. The theoretical mechanisms of team assembly can be categorized at four levels of emergence: compositional, relational, task-based, and ecosystem. All four approaches are well-captured using network approaches, with the aim of understanding the impact of these four sets of factors on the likelihood that a team-assembly edge (or, in network parlance, a hyperedge) will form.

Results of the research described here will help (i) individual researchers assemble their own dream team, (ii) university administrators to help organize interdisciplinary initiatives for research and education, (iii) leaders of cyber infrastructure such as the NSF-funded nanoHUB, use a dashboard and recommender system, to monitor and enable high performing virtual collaboration within the nanoHUB community, (iv) program officers at funding agencies who make decisions about the likely payoff scientific teams, and (v) science policy makers on how to design and fund research programs that incentivize the assembly of dream teams.

About the presenter
Noshir Contractor is the Jane S. & William J. White Professor of Behavioral Sciences in the School of Engineering, School of Communication and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, USA. He is the Director of the Science of Networks in Communities (SONIC) Research Group at Northwestern University.