Research translation is the process whereby knowledge is passed anywhere along the translational pathway i.e. research findings are translated into practice, policy or further research (Davidson, 2011).

Translational research is research that looks at how best to translate research into practice and/or policy e.g. research that addresses particular gaps in translation (Davidson, 2011).

The terms ‘research translation’ and ‘translational research’ appeared in the literature in the 1990’s in response to significant increases in basic or clinical science discoveries with little improvement in the provision of health care and health outcomes (Szilagyi, 2009, Davidson, 2011). These concepts initially tried to address this gap by focusing on moving research from the bench-to-bedside. However, it is generally acknowledged that moving research from the bedside to population-wide health must also be considered (Butler 2008, Szilagyi 2009, Woolf 2011). As such a bidirectional continuum or translational pathway has been developed spanning four phases (Szilagyi, 2009, Davidson, 2011):

  • T1 refers to the translation of basic research into a potential clinical application.
  • T2 refers to efficacy studies, in which new interventions are trialled under optimal conditions.
  • T3 refers to effectiveness studies, where promising phase 2 interventions are trialled in ‘real world’ settings;
  • T4 refers impact studies, which examine the impact of a new intervention/guideline at a population level.