“Team” and “Theme” leadership in research

Most research projects involve research teams and research themes. The former refers toe people who work together as a team. Though who should belong in a research team can be debatable, the general agreement is that those who have stakes in the research or the implementation of its findings need to be members of the research team. Team leaders in research lead the research team. The focus is more on leading members as a team so that they can achieve more.

On the other hand, there are also research themes. These are a core group of research issues that cut across many boundaries. Theme leaders lead the core group of such research issues. These leaders define the strategic direction of research efforts in their specific themes. They identify evidence gaps and devise robust strategies to fill that gap. They also facilitate the use and utilization of evidence in their theme. The focus of theme leadership is on advancing the research theme.

As research team and research theme always go together, team leaders and theme leaders share many similar functions. A team usually has a theme, and vice versa. But team and theme leadership also have some differences – an area of future exploration. Both team and theme leadership are essential for effective research practice.