Communicating the societal impact of translational science: a new assessment framework

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Researchers at the Washington University Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences (ICTS) have developed a framework to better understand the real-world impacts of translational research. The new model was designed to help institutions go beyond the standard measures of scientific success to assess how translational research impacts communities and society at large.

The CTSA Program has placed a lot of effort into assessing the value of its work via measures of scientific productivity, like grant submissions, publications and citations. While these measures are crucial, they often emphasize the outcomes that are of interest to scientists, and overlook the broader benefits to human health and society.

The Translational Science Benefits Model (TSBM), which includes 30 specific criteria for measurement, was consciously developed to help researchers easily understand and communicate the benefits of translational science that matter most to the public – tangible economic and societal benefits, like improvements to community health and financial savings.

“This model allows the translational science community to clearly demonstrate the downstream impact of this type of research, which is important to the government and taxpayers alike,” said Douglas Luke, TSBM contributor and public health sciences professor at Washington University. “Ultimately, the TSBM will let us say, ‘your investment in science is worth it.’”

The first step in the development of the TSBM was creating a logic model linking specific scientific activities, such as funded research projects, to public health and societal benefits. These benefits were then categorized into four main domains: clinical and medical; community and public health; economic; and policy and legislative. Each domain contains a list of specific criteria, or indicators, which include things like the development of biomedical technologies, community health programs and health education resources, the creation of patents, and the use of expert testimony.

While the ideology behind the TSBM isn’t new, the researchers involved were able to structure it in an organized, defined and actionable fashion, allowing translational scientists and researchers to better asses their work’s impact and secure funding in today’s competitive environment.

“At a time when funding and resources are tight for biomedical research, it’s more important than ever to point out the value translational science brings to society,” said Bradley Evanoff, TSBM contributor and director and PI at ICTS.

To learn more about the TSBM, read the full publication. Related questions can be directed to Courtney Beers, TSBM contributor and associate director of operations at ICTS.

The project described in this article was led by Douglas A. Luke, Cathy C. Sarli, Amy M. Suiter, Bobbi J. Carothers, Todd B. Combs, Jae L. Allen, Courtney E. Beers and Bradley A. Evanoff. The project was supported by the Washington University Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences CTSA award (UL1 TR002001) from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.


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