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Fresh teams are associated with original and multidisciplinary research


Teamwork is one of the most prominent features in modern science. It is now well understood that team size is an important factor that affects the creativity of the team. However, the crucial question of how the character of research studies is related to the freshness of a team remains unclear. Here, we quantify the team freshness according to the absence of prior collaboration among team members. Our results suggest that papers produced by fresher teams are associated with greater originality and a greater multidisciplinary impact. These effects are even stronger in larger teams. Furthermore, we find that freshness defined by new team members in a paper is a more effective indicator of research originality and multidisciplinarity compared with freshness defined by new collaboration relationships among team members. Finally, we show that the career freshness of team members is also positively correlated with the originality and multidisciplinarity of produced papers.

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Fig. 1: Illustration of the freshness of teams, disruption of papers and multidisciplinary impact of papers.
Fig. 2: Fresh teams create more original and multidisciplinary research.
Fig. 3: The difference between fresh and old teams is amplified in larger teams.
Fig. 4: Team freshness defined by new team members and new collaboration relationships.
Fig. 5: Freshness of team member’s careers.

Data availability

The APS data can be downloaded at The computer science data can be downloaded at The multidisciplinary data were download from Other related, relevant data are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Code availability

Computational codes for data processing and analysis are available from the corresponding author on request.


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This work is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China under Grant (71843005 and 71731002). S.H. thanks the Israel Science Foundation and the NSF-BSF for financial support. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.

Author information




A.Z. and S.H. designed the research. A.Z. performed the experiments. Y.F., Z.D. and Y.W. contributed analytical tools. A.Z. and S.H. analysed the data. All of the authors wrote the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Shlomo Havlin.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Peer review information Nature Human Behaviour thanks Filipi Nascimento Silva and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work. Peer reviewer reports are available.

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

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Zeng, A., Fan, Y., Di, Z. et al. Fresh teams are associated with original and multidisciplinary research. Nat Hum Behav (2021).

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