Special journal issue features new model of translational science

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A new model of prevention research is encouraging scientists to take a more integrative and translational approach to advance the development, implementation and scaling of more precision-based behavioral interventions and inform policy change.

Leading this pioneering work is Diana H. Fishbein -- director of the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center (PRC), C. Eugene Bennett Chair in Prevention Research, and professor of human development and family studies at Penn State. Fishbein, along with co-editors Ty A. Ridenour, Mindy Stahl and Steve Sussman, outlined the full translational spectrum of prevention science in a special issue of the Springer publication, “Translational Behavioral Medicine.”

“This new transdisciplinary and translational approach has extraordinary potential to foster systematic ways for researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to work together to support interventions that will benefit a greater number of individuals, families and communities,” said Fishbein.

In the issue’s introductory article, Fishbein describes the six stages of the translational process, each of which is further discussed in subsequent articles. The scientific stages in the prevention framework include discovery science, methods and program development, efficacy and effectiveness trials, real-world applications and dissemination, scaling and public reform and globalization and public opinion.

What’s different about the process, which appears to follow a progression, is that it’s neither linear nor circular, suggesting that any stage has the capability to inform any other phase of research. This more holistic approach to prevention research challenges scientists to come out of their silos and collaborate with researchers working in adjacent stages of the prevention spectrum. 

The special issue is organized around four major translational challenges:

(1) demonstrating the utility of basic science findings for prevention;
(2) formulating recommendations for the transfer of scientific information across the spectrum of translation, i.e., from basic research on "mechanisms of behavioral change" for practice and policy impact;
(3) confronting the real-world challenges in applying a translational approach with recommended innovations to overcome existing obstacles; and
(4) coming full circle to develop methods and processes for effective prevention programs to be self-sustaining and use back-translational evidence to inform basic sciences.

“Ultimately, it is our hope that this model will highlight how a transdisciplinary translational approach to prevention research is a faster pathway to improve the lives of children and adolescents by giving them opportunities for healthy development and greater success in adulthood,” Fishbein said.

Penn State’s PRC has long been a world leader in the advancement of prevention science related to the translation and dissemination of effective preventive interventions. The PRC recognizes that evidence-based programs can only impact public health if they are effectively taken to scale, implemented with high quality and sustained over time.

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Last Updated April 18, 2016