What is translational research?

Erica Bell, Siobhan Harpur, Kathleen Doherty, Janet Struber, Lorraine Davies

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    This chapter aims to offer an overview and working definition of translational research, appropriate to health. Using scholarly and applied literature, it first identifies key challenges in achieving evidence-based policy and practice. It highlights international policy interest in new approaches to evidence translation and the barriers to achieving sound evidence translation. We offer an explicit definition of translational research and explains why it is important to have such a definition. It then elaborates on this definition by identifying and exploring seven distinctive research practices that could be associated with translational research. The findings and conclusions are as follows. Translational research is research with a sense of place. Its defining feature is excellence in evidence for a specific context or sphere of action, whether that is health policy for the World Health Organisation or service design for a local non-government organisation. If research is to be translated at all, it needs to be meaningful to many specific contexts, including small and regional contexts. The quality of a health system is no more than the sum of how well many different specific practice and policy contexts work. Therefore, a notion of health research quality that ignores or homogenises these specific contexts, including small and regional contexts, is a notion of research quality that does not serve the nation as a whole.The best promise that translational research offers is of exciting new techniques to achieve rigour and systemacy for such localised ‘real world’ policy, service and practice contexts.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationTranslational research for primary healthcare
    PublisherNova Publishers
    Number of pages14
    ISBN (Electronic)9781624174094
    ISBN (Print)9781613246474
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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