Contemporary approaches to multi-organisational response planning for the management of complex volcanic crises assume that identifying the types of expertise needed provides the foundation for effective response. We discuss why this is only one aspect, and present the social, psychological and organizational issues that need to be accommodated to realize the full benefits of multi-agency collaboration. We discuss the need to consider how organizational culture, inter-agency trust, mental models, information management and communication and decision making competencies and processes, need to be understood and accommodated in crisis management planning and delivery. This paper discusses how these issues can be reconciled within superordinate (overarching) management structures designed to accommodate multi-agency response that incorporates decision-making inputs from both the response management team and the science advisors. We review the science advisory processes within New Zealand (NZ), and discuss lessons learnt from research into the inter-organisational response to historical eruptions and exercises in NZ. We argue that team development training is essential and review the different types of training and exercising techniques (including cross training, positional rotation, scenario planning, collaborative exercises, and simulations) which can be used to develop a coordinated capability in multiagency teams. We argue that to truly enhance the science response, science agencies must learn from the emergency management sector and embark on exercise and simulation programs within their own organisations, rather than solely participating as external players in emergency management exercises. We thus propose a science-led tiered exercise program, with example exercise scenarios, which can be used to enhance both the internal science response and the interagency response to a national or international event, and provide direction for the effective writing and conduct of these exercises.