The multiple meanings of translational research in (bio)medical research

History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 41 (4):1-24 (2019)
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Abstract

Translational research is a buzzword which dominates discussions about the quality, the utilization, and the benefits of medical research. Yet, although translational research has become a prominent topic, no commonly agreed definition of this terminology exists. Instead, experts from different contexts such as biomedical research, clinical practice or nursing discuss translational research in multiple ways depending on how they define the problem that translational research is supposed to be the solution to. In this paper, we do not seek to find a ‘correct’ definition of translational research, but instead ask how actors using this terminology for describing their own research make sense of it. To do so, we asked three questions: Which actors are engaged in the debate about translational research? What kind of different meanings of translational research exist? And, which actors refer to which meaning of translational research when using the term? In answering these questions, we highlight the role this terminology plays in defining what medical science is about today.

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