When it comes to scientific collaborations, many researchers have found value in forming multi-disciplinary partnerships involving experts from various fields. But "diversity of discipline" is only the first step, says Lehigh University President Alice Gast at Scientific American — collaborations are strengthened when they include "international diversity" as well. That's because despite cultural, geographic, and other differences, "science is a unifying force," Gast says, adding that much progress to date has come from multinational collaborations. For example, a team of 11 labs from nine countries identified the SARS coronavirus in 2003.
International collaborations aren't always easy, Gast says, drawing on her own experience working long-term with groups in Germany and Mexico. While cultural differences can sometimes affect the way the work is done, in the end, Gast says such teamwork is worth the effort. "The need to reach across national boundaries places greater demands on scientists," she adds. "While scientists become more specialized as they proceed through their studies, broadening and collaborative experiences make them better able to 'think differently' and 'connect the dots' to discover new things. Ultimately it leads to better science."