TRE TIG Week: Bill Trochim & Arthur Blank Introducing the Translational Research Evaluation TIG!

Bill Trochim and Arthur Blank here and we are delighted to introduce AEA’s newest Topical Interest Group (TIG) – the Translational Research Evaluation TIG – and this week’s theme.

So, let’s start with – what is “translational research” (TR) and why is it so important? There are lots of definitions of TR. We prefer a broad and encompassing definition along these lines “the systematic effort to move research from initial discovery to practice and ultimately to impacts on our lives.” In biomedical research, some refer to TR as “bench-to-bedside” suggesting that it links basic laboratory work to the practice of clinical medicine. Others (like us) tend to describe TR more sweepingly as “innovation-to-impact”, emphasizing the entire research-practice continuum from initial new ideas to their ultimate application and effect on society. In one sense, TR is very new, and one of the hottest topics in contemporary research. But, in another sense, it is as old as the research-practice distinction itself.

If research and practice were well integrated and functioning efficiently together, the emphasis on TR would be unnecessary. In most biomedical and applied social policy areas, research takes too long to influence practice; one well-known estimate is that it takes on average 17 years for a biomedical discovery to influence practice (and that is likely an underestimate). Some of this time is undoubtedly due to the inherent difficulties of translation. But there is considerable evidence to suggest that much of this time lapse may be due to other factors.

Lesson Learned: In many fields, the problems being studied are complex and require multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches. But researchers have not been trained in collaborative and team science methods that might enhance such work. In many fields, researchers develop innovations without considering the world of practice, only to find out later that their ideas won’t work in the real world. Learning how to involve the practice community as integral participants throughout the research development process could help avoid such costly errors. In many instances, research and practice realms are poorly managed and full of inefficiencies. For instance, we know that the process of reviewing and starting a single biomedical clinical trial can take years and involve hundreds of steps (many of them unnecessary or duplicative). If we learned more about how to manage the research enterprise better – something like a “science of science” or a “science of science management” – we might see significant progress.

Rad Resources: This week you’ll be introduced to some of the members of our new TIG and to the kinds of issues we are addressing.

Rad Resources: The National Institute of Health’s Clinical and Translational Science Award program provides support to professionals engaging in this work.  NIH also offers additional information about translational science in biomedicine.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Translational Research Evaluation (TRE) TIG week. All posts this week are contributed by members of the TRE Topical Interest Group. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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