Author: Wiebke Arlt

Team Science Leads the Way – But Hero Science Still Looms Large

Artwork by Mengmeng Tu, MSc Science Communication student

This festive period, Three Wise Women from the Faculty of Medicine will be giving us the gift of wisdom.

When it comes to tackling the world’s biggest health challenges, teamwork makes the dream work for Professor Wiebke Arlt, Director of the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences (LMS). Here, she discusses why it’s time that contemporary science shifted from a hero science to a team science approach – one based on productive collaboration rather than wasteful competition.

Going it alone is often glorified as the breakthrough way of achieving major milestones. However, if you look closely, most of these are achieved in a team effort and not by single individuals. Our perception of heroes rather than teams is often driven by the narrative and not the facts: when I was a child, I learnt that Edmund Hillary was the first to climb the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest. Now I know that Hillary achieved this feat together with the Nepalese mountaineer Tenzing Norgay. Reading up on it, I discovered that they didn’t walk up the mountain on their own, but they were part of a large expedition team that worked together to achieve the goal. Hillary and Norgay were the second pair to be deployed as part of a systematic team approach to conquering the mountain.