Funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Award number NNX16AQ48G (NNJ15ZSA001N)

A US-Russian Collaborative Proposal for Data Collection in HERA: The Relationship between Composition, Interpersonal Relations, and Team Effectiveness in Space Crews

Long-duration space exploration missions (LDSEM) will include a number of challenges such as prolonged isolation and confinement that are likely to impinge on team functioning and increase the importance of social integration, shared cognition, and effective team processes needed for mission success. Given these challenges, it is not surprising that team composition, or the configuration of team member attributes and their relations, has been identified as an important area of research that can contribute to the effective management of space crews. How crew composition and interpersonal relations affect crew functioning and effectiveness has been and continues to be of interest to both NASA and to the Institute of Biomedical Problems (IBMP), whose research informs operations for the Russian Federal Space Agency.

Research from these agencies related to team composition and interpersonal relations has evolved with different emphases. Team composition research in NASA-sponsored research heavily relies on trait and network theories and seeks to understand which traits, measures, and crew combinations thereof predicts team functioning in LDSEM-analog environments. The research mostly uses a nomothetic approach with the desire to identify traits and combinations of traits that can be used to compose, train, and manage highly effective crews (NASA’s Human Research Roadmap Team Gap 8). Over time, research conducted by IBMP has moved away from trait-based approaches toward an idiographic (in-depth, heavily descriptive) approach to researching crew interpersonal relations. Researchers at IBMP have used the Personal Self-Perception and Attitudes (PSPA) scale to derive personages to represent an individual’s self-perception, interpersonal perceptions, and relationship to the group. The PSPA is used in data collection in the ISS and space simulations conducted by IBMP.

We propose a joint research effort by US and Russian researchers that incorporates the approaches used by IBMP and in NASA funded research into a model which details how team member attributes, combinations thereof, and interpersonal perceptions affects the emergence of relational states in isolated and confined environments (ICE). Specifically, we propose to develop and empirically test a process model of interpersonal relationship formation in ICE (AIM 1). As part of our research program, we also will examine the validity of the PSPA, which is a standardized measure utilized by the Russians to assess interpersonal compatibility and relations in ICE (AIM 2).

To meet these critical aims, we propose a 3-year US-Russian collaborative effort in which we leverage existing data previously collected by our Russian collaborators in the Mars 105 and Mars 500 simulations; collect new data using analog-definition research in the 2017 and 2018 Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) campaigns; and use a novel combination of text mining, relational events modeling, and coevolution statistical modeling to analyze the data. Our efforts will result in research products critical to Team Gaps 1, 4, and 8, including an empirically supported model of interpersonal relationship formation in ICE, recommendations for a path forward for international collaboration in research related to team composition and interpersonal relations in ICE, and a summary of validation evidence for the PSPA with recommendations for whether it should be included in NASA’s standardized measures for analog environments protocol.

Zurek, M., Harris, M., Johnson, J., N. S., DeChurch, L. A., & Contractor, N. S. (2020, July 13-17). Bridging analog environments: Comparison of group dynamics and cohesion between the human exploration research analog (HERA) and over-wintering Antarctic stations [Conference presentation]. Virtual sunbelt conference of the International Network for Social Network Analysis (INSNA).

Larson, L., Wojcik, H., Gokhman, I., DeChurch, L., Bell, S., & Contractor, N. (2019). Team performance in space crews: Houston, we have a teamwork problem. Acta Astronautica, 161, 108–114. 

Vazquez, M., Outland, N., Vinokhodova, A., Gushin, V., Bell, S., DeChurch, L., & Contractor, N. (2018, January). Examining interpersonal compatibility using configurations of conditions for tie formation across two samples. Paper presented at the NASA Human Research Program Investigators’ Workshop, Galveston, TX.

Gokhman, I., Plummer, G., DeChurch, L., Vazquez, M., Bell, S., & Contractor, N. (2018, January). Development and validation of an information sharing assessment tool for space crews. Poster presented at the NASA Human Research Program Investigators’ Workshop, Galveston, TX.

Bell, S., Vinokhodova, A., Gushin, V., Contractor, N., DeChurch, L., Outland, N., Vazquez, M., & Burns, T. (2018, January). Toward a process model of interpersonal relationship formation in ICE. Poster presented at the NASA Human Research Program Investigators’ Workshop, Galveston, TX.

Zakhlebin, I., Vinokhodova, A., Gushin, V., Bell, S. T., DeChurch, L., & Contractor, N. (2017, June). Coevolution of interpersonal perceptions and team structure in long-duration space exploration missions. Paper presented at the 1st North American Social Network Conference, Washington, D.C.