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Mapping the evolving definitions of translational research

  • Daniel G. Fort (a1), Timothy M. Herr (a1), Pamela L. Shaw (a2), Karen E. Gutzman (a2) and Justin B. Starren (a1)...

Systematic review and analysis of definitions of translational research.

Materials and methods

The final corpus was comprised of 33 papers, each read by at least 2 reviewers. Definitions were mapped to a common set of research processes for presentation and analysis. Influence of papers and definitions was further evaluated using citation analysis and agglomerative clustering.


All definitions were mapped to common research processes, revealing most common labels for each process. Agglomerative clustering revealed 3 broad families of definitions. Citation analysis showed that the originating paper of each family has been cited ~10 times more than any other member.


Although there is little agreement between definitions, we were able to identify an emerging consensus 5-phase (T0–T4) definition for translational research. T1 involves processes that bring ideas from basic research through early testing in humans. T2 involves the establishment of effectiveness in humans and clinical guidelines. T3 primarily focuses on implementation and dissemination research while T4 focuses on outcomes and effectiveness in populations. T0 involves research such as genome-wide association studies which wrap back around to basic research.


We used systematic review and analysis to identify emerging consensus between definitions of translational research phases.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the same Creative Commons licence is included and the original work is properly cited. The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use.
Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: D. G. Fort, Ph.D., M.P.H., Department of Preventive Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine, Division of Health and Biomedical Informatics, Northwestern University, Rubloff Building, 750 N. Lake Shore Dr, 11th Floor, Chicago, IL 60611, USA. (Email:
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